Sunday, September 12, 2004

Ah, Booker...

Is anyone else sick and tired of this year's Booker Prize, even before the shortlist? Or is it just me? It's awful to watch people who really should know better embarrassing themselves like petulant children. I cringed when I read Justin Cartwright first moaning about not being longlisted, then going on to say how he thought the longlist was pointless anyway. I know his overall point (among other things) was that the longlist shouldn't be publicised in order that, essentially, established authors such as himself shouldn't get "humiliated" so that judges can do a favour for friends, but everyone would retain a lot more dignity if they just stopped all the whinging. And why the heck is there such an outcry about Rowan Pelling knowing Matt Thorne and Susanna Clarke? People within the literary community do generally mix, you know. I would be far more shocked if it turned out that not a single judge knew one of the longlisted authors.

I won't even start on Tibor Fischer. He's best forgotten, in my opinion. I'm certainly not going to reward his continual controversy by purchasing one of his books, so tough luck Tibor.

I must finally note that I quite agree with Suzy Feay when she says that hidden in the longlist (that is technically okay, has quite a nice range, and rather conservatively ticks all the boxes), there is potentially a very good shortlist. What would I like to see there? Well, if it was made up of a selection of the following it could be excellent: Cloud Atlas; The Line of Beauty; The Master; Havoc, In It's Third Year; Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (whose literary quality I think I at first underestimated); Maps For Lost Lovers; Cherry, and Nicola Barker's Clear. The latter two probably won't get there, but they both look to me like pretty interesting books. Besides, what with all the griping about the judges knowing Thorne, it'll be incredibly hard for them to put it there now, which is another reason why this griping should stop right now. I'll also say that I'm starting to get a little suspicious (although only a very little) that one of the three front-runners will fall at the next hurdle (Toibin?). With the judging as it has been, the panel doesn't seem the sort to allow all three favourites onto the shortlist...Although I'm probably very wrong. They are favourites for a reason, after all, and Smith and his cohorts would get a lot of stick for neglecting Toibin. No, they probably won't ignore one of the three.

And, yup, despite the fact that people are going David Mitchell crazy my money's still on The Line of Beauty right now. Though I'm not half as confident as I was before. This may not make much sense, but I have a feeling that Cloud Atlas may just be a little too Booker.

To close, I'm pretty confused by it all and don't really know what I think. You can probably tell. Almost anything could happen, which is why I think this year's actually pretty exciting (you must forget that in the first sentence I said I was sick and tired of it). The Booker is, like those aforementioned grumpy cast-asides, similar to a petulant child: sometimes it throws all of its toys out of the cot (Vernon God Little), sometimes it behaves perfectly (The Blind Assassin), and sometimes it gives us something inspiring (Life of Pi).