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Episode Discussions > Man Booker

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message 1: by Becky (new)

Becky Yamarik | 74 comments Hey, very interesting podcast about the Man Booker. Trevor and you had a nice banter and I really enjoyed it. On that photo of the judges on the website, is the guy on the far right an actor?? He looks familiar. . .

anyway, interesting to hear about your favorite former winners and loved the anecdote about the taxi driver.

I did leave the podcast slightly frustrated by my own lack of knowledge re: the prize and a selfish desire to have been spoon fed more info. . . such as
1. More history/information about the prize, what is it exactly for? is it just "the best" book by a commonwealth author or are there more specifics?
2. What WAS Trevor's issue with the 2008 season? more elaboration and backstory about things that you both randomly would mention but that I didn't really know anything about. . .
3. How does the judging work? Who are the judges and how are they picked?

And I know this is just my perspective, it's ok if you want the podcast a more casual conversation and if we want more info, we have to go read wikipedia or other things. . .

message 2: by Elizabeth☮ (last edited Sep 20, 2012 09:26AM) (new)

Elizabeth☮ there are two posts of the same topic.

message 3: by Becky (new)

Becky Yamarik | 74 comments i know, I messed up. . . maybe someone can figure out how to delete one?

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Of the two Man Booker episode discussions, this one has the most comments so far, so I'll assume this is the one that is not going to get deleted.

I just wanted to say that, whilst Trevor disliked the feature of Harold Fry that is kept secret from the reader in order to deliver a final twist, for me that was one of the strengths of the book. I'm not a fan of the unreliable narrator device, especially when it is simply code for a character who is a thoroughly nasty piece of work who I cannot care for, but I do like a good twist. Holding something back from the reader can give a pleasing sense of structure to a novel, just like a final movement can surprisingly tie up the threads of a symphony.

Similarly, Trevor described Rachel Joyce's book as "sentimental", seeming to imply that this is a synonym for lightweight and unworthy. I perhaps over-interpret there, but it seemed clear that Trever does not like sentimentality - as is his right. What does Trevor mean by sentimentality? Why does he dislike it? (I'm assuming this question is not covered in the half of the podcast I've not heard yet!)

message 5: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 3 comments Hello everyone! It was very fun to wake up early on a cold September morning to chat with Simon about the Booker. Since a few of the messages above wonder about where I'm coming from, I would like to respond.

Becky, the Man Booker Prize was established in 1969 to award the "best" "full-length" novel written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. I put "best" and "full-length" in quotes because those are hardly defined terms of art. First, though it looks broad, the prize has some major limitations. First and foremost, each publisher can submit two and only two of their eligible novels (there are some exceptions, but this is the general rule). So the "best" novel might not even be submitted to and read by the judges (who are chosen each year by the Man Booker committee; and it sometimes feels very random indeed). The publishers don't need to disclose which books they submitted, so we never know if a book was considered or not. I feel that publishers have too much power to form the character of the prize this way. Anyway . . . The best way to pick up the various nuances of the prize and to learn about its now 40+ year-old history would be to follow it in the news or on a forum (like mine :) ). You'll pick up a lot of its history as regular followers give their two-cents'.

As for 2008, I have a record of my experience with that longlist on my blog. It was a major case of Booker fatigue, and of course, there were some exeptional books in there, but I felt most were uneven and barely so-so, a compilation of "voice" novels, with very little to say. It was discouraging to read a longlist of books and get so little in return. It's also a relatively rare experience.

Now, to respond a bit to David. My problem is not with unreliable narrators or twists. It's very specific to this book and how Joyce structured it. Avoiding spoilers, I felt Joyce misled readers simply for dramatic effect and not so we could experience any of the real drama. That ties in to my feelings on sentimentality versus sentiment. One goes for dramatic effect, often telling the reader what to feel though a list of aphorisms or by manipulating us (I felt both in Harold Fry); the other allows the reader to experience the drama and emotion along with the character. There's real drama going on in Harold Fry's life (and his wife's, which was a part of the book I really did like), but to supply a twist the author holds out on us, and I can see no reason other than dramatic effect; Fry knew and was thinking about what happened between him and Queenie all the time, so why hold out on the reader> Why can't we feel what he's actually feeling? To go further, why suggest to the reader it's something other than it is?

message 6: by Elizabeth☮ (new)

Elizabeth☮ Becky wrote: "i know, I messed up. . . maybe someone can figure out how to delete one?"

you have to delete the thread because you created it. just click on edit and then you can delete it.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Trevor wrote: "...Now, to respond a bit to David ..."

Hello Trevor (and everyone else). Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment. I think I now understand your point of view, even though I take a different one in this particular instance. I liked the dramatic effect and, for me, it did not diminish the extent to which I was able to sympathise with Harold and his wife. After all, we were always made aware that something significant had happened in the past, we just were not told what until late in the book. I appreciate this technique had a different, less positive impact, on your reading of this book. At least now you do not face the prospect of being disappointed by it winning the prize.

I've not read any of the short-listed titles as yet. I will definitely read Mantel, though probably not until the paperback comes out. Of the others, The Garden of Evening Mists and The Lighthouse sound appealing. I'm afraid that despite your enthusiasm for Swimming Home, the way in which you and Simon described it rather put me off. I'm not a fan of serious books (as opposed to the odd crime novel) that focus relentlessly on the darker side of human nature, unless, like Mantel, they come with an interesting historical setting to sugar the pill.

Ever since I've seen the short-list I have been convinced that Will Self will win. Everything I have heard about his book makes me believe that I would absolutely hate it, but I cannot help thinking that this year's judges have an unspoken assignment to restore the reputation of the Booker as a weighty prize. What better way could they do this than by awarding it to a highly experimental piece of fiction? This is the same panel, after all, that long-listed Communion Town.

message 8: by Becky (new)

Becky Yamarik | 74 comments Trevor, thanks for the other info on the Booker. . . much appreciated. I also enjoyed the discussion between Trevor and David, very interesting. I have just realized recently that I get irritated by the kind of plot twists you are discussing. I recently readSilver Sparrow and it had one of those and I thought the book was otherwise well written and the author didn't need to hold out on us.

. . after the discussion between Simon and Trevor I think I will try to read Swimming Home and The Lighthouse. . . even though I'm beginning to feel like Simon and I have opposite tastes!? I loved Cloud Atlas and thought The Shadow of the Wind was kind of silly. . .

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