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Other Prizes > Booker criticism and other prizes

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message 1: by Ang (last edited Aug 21, 2018 08:18AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments For anyone coming to this fresh, it was originally put in the RoC folder with a title that perhaps reflected unfairly on the RoC. I don't think the Booker forum is the best place for it either, so putting it under Other Prizes for now.

James Tait winner corresponds with RoC winner, spawning this conversation, which I think is better continued under the RoC than the James Tait.

Paul said:
Good to see mainstream prizes also recognising the great work being done by small independent presses. That's Britain's premier prize for debut novels, oldest prize, and main prize for translated fiction this year, to add to past wins in the Goldsmiths and Bailey's. Shame there is still one (publicity obsessed) holdout on the prize front.

Ang said:
Paul, the Booker often features books from small presses. Does there have to be a Booker bashing with every small press win?

Paul said:
The 2012 (pre rule change) list featured 3 small independent presses but can't think of many since (independent presses like Granta yes but not the small ones).

Several have said they struggle to even enter due to the requirement to actually pay money to contribute to the publicity budget if selected. Even if that leads to greater sales over time it causes a cash flow problem and most live hand to mouth, which is why they rely on subscribers.

And this year's list had 7 books from one publisher Penguin Random House.

I'm afraid I will keep Booker bashing as I think the award has a pernicious impact on our literary culture.

Antonomasia said:
I think it's good to have some criticism on here of things like the Booker which are major parts of the forum. The discussion would have less depth and intelligence if everyone dutifully plodded along.

However, a problem with some small-press books is that they can be less accessible - they are rarely discounted or available in libraries (and the latter may be reluctant to order them outside the major cities where they'd get more than one or two readers). It sometimes seems that small-press books are written by people who could barely afford to buy them (and could not, at any rate, really afford multiple annual subscriptions). It's nothing like the scale of the creator / buyer financial divide in contemporary art but there are small echoes of it.

Paul said:
Yes that is fair. Supporting small presses definitely does require a financial sacrifice and one that not everyone can make, which does make it oddly elitist which is inconsistent with their very ethos. (A rather large number of the RoC books contained rants against my own occupation, one even had a fantasy about putting bankers to death).

And I apologise for being guilty of being an anti-Booker bore but you have hit on one of the reasons: if anything I find our forum a little too pro Booker so I play devil's advocate. For example I feel it is a shame that most of my favourite reviewers on GR have had to waste their valuable reading and reviewing time reading Snap. On pretty much any other award if Snap had featured almost everyone would have skipped it.

MisterHobgoblin said:
I doubt that I am one of those you refer to, but I read Snap gladly. I am quite happy to leave Booker entries unread if I think there's little chance of enjoying them. I have a list of authors I would not read again:

Howard Jacobson (thanks to Kalooki Nights)
Hilary Mantel (thanks to Beyond Black - reinforced by Wolf Hall)
Anne Enright (thanks to The Gathering)

Sebastian Barry is pretty close to being on the list too.
As was Richard Powers (thanks to Orfeo - but redeeming himself with The Overstory)

But I would happily read another Belinda Bauer in the unlikely event that she got listed again.

Ang said:
It's up to the individual what they read. As MisterHobgoblin says, we weren't forced to read Snap and not everyone is. I read it because I hoped it would be good. Unfortunately, for me, it was not.

It feels like you want people to choose beteween the Booker and small presses. There is room for both. Also, you seem to want to dismiss some small presses that do get selected by the Booker. It wasn't just 2012.

If there's more to say, I think we should take this particular discussion away from James Tait and continue on the Republic of C. where it belongs. Paul's views are very much aligned with the founder of the RoC. Both want to "put another nail in the coffin" of the Booker.

I participated by reading and contributing financially to the RoC last year. I wouldn't say I came across the best books of the year, but I was glad to have done it. If you think I should choose between the RoC and the Booker (and be sure - no other prize would make this their goal) then I know which I will choose.


message 2: by Ang (last edited Aug 20, 2018 11:32PM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Okay, I'll go. When I say that the RoC didn't produce the best books of the year, I can clarify that no prize does for me. The James Tait Black and Goldsmiths come closest, and I don't think that they are university prizes is a coincidence. I suspect they have the best way of selecting. The Booker announcement always leaves out plenty of great books I've read, so starts out somewhat disappointing, but it is the highlight of my reading year to read and share with all the people here. This year we have so many people participating, which has pleased me no end. Hugh can confirm, but I think the number of readers and books read is much higher than in previous years.

I don't think, Paul, that you should worry that reviewers are spending time reading the Booker list - I am in awe of how quick so many are reading the entire list. Not even a month has gone by since announcement.

Don't get me wrong, if there are genuine criticisms of the Booker to be made, there is a place for those criticisms here. But when something is repeated so frequently, I feel that people can tire of the argument and eventually not respond, making it look like the argument against is the view of more of the forum.


message 3: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Blue Self Portrait was fab, by the way. That was the standout of the RoC in my opinion. I fully intend to participate again this year.


message 4: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Pool It seems to me that two separate responses to the Man Booker Prize overlap.
First there’s the issue of whether the long list selections are allowable, in accordance with the Prize rules and conditions of entry. This is a perennial, and interesting debate, and historically has deliberated in what constitutes a short story. In 2018 poetry and graphic comic/ novels have been thrown into the mix.

The second ongoing Booker debate is a qualitative judgement on the selected books. I don’t think too many years have received universal praise for all long listed books, and you wouldn’t expect that in a field of thirteen.
Questions raised about Snap’s place on the list seems to be mostly to do with the innate quality of the writing, rather than opposition to detective fiction as an unsuitable genre for Booker.
The disappointment about under, or non, representation of literature from whole swathes of the globe (the Antipodes, and Africa, particularly) is a valid criticism of Booker 2018, IMO.

So far as the quality of Man Booker 2018 longlist is concerned, my personal view aligns with Mister Hobgoblin. I think it is one of the strongest longlists. The quality of discussion and debate on the Mookse board has been the most passionate, diverse and interesting I’ve experienced. The number of five star reviews awarded from all quarters, for books that hadn’t even been on the speculation lists, is testament that the Man Booker judges got a whole lot, if not everything, right this year.


message 5: by Robert (new)

Robert | 2299 comments To be honest, I don't like comparing prizes, all the ones I follow satisfy a literary need nicely:

I've always seen the Booker, Women's Prize and the Pulitzer winning novel as a reflection of major trends in the literary world.

Goldsmiths and RoC satisfy my need for experimental, yet playful novels. I also like to see how authors can push boundaries and these two prizes are perfect.

MBI (although I only read the winner) helps expose me to translated lit, which I badly need.

Costa listed novels are usually the basis of my Christmas present list (obviously I read them first).

There's no such thing as a perfect longlist so I don't see why one should compare. :)


message 6: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments I agree, Robert. There is room for as many prizes as a person wants to fit in, and some of you fit in a whole lot.


message 7: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments I wasn't sure what to name this thread and I can change it if it doesn't suit.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 7145 comments I would prefer you to change it Ang

Maybe Diversity of Literature Prizes and move it out of the RoC folder.


message 9: by Ang (last edited Aug 21, 2018 12:40AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments There was another criticism lobbed at the Booker this year - that they were choosing more accessible books and aiming to appeal to a younger audience.

I agree with Jonathan and MisterHobgoblin that this is a standout year's selection, and I'm no spring chicken.

The accessibility criticism came out too soon, before it was possible for the books to have been read, and perhaps relates to the age of some of the authors. I wonder if impressions have changed for those who initially thought the judges favoured accessibility over quality and have now read the books.

Personally, I don't see it. Of course, some are more "accessible" than others, as in any year.


message 10: by Hugh (last edited Aug 21, 2018 01:04AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3676 comments Mod
Ang wrote: "Hugh can confirm, but I think the number of readers and books read is much higher than in previous years."

I have not attempted to analyse anything on the main Mookse site from before the group existed here, but we have not yet matched last year's record high. There is still plenty of time before the shortlist announcement, one of the books has not yet been ranked at all, and the availability of the books outside the UK is much lower this year, which must have had a big impact, so we may yet manage it.

I think the totals are (longlist rankings only)
2016 - 36 contributors, 285 books ranked
2017 - 55 contributors, 485 books
2018 - 48 contributors, 303 books

I have excluded blank placeholders from the contributor count.

The figures for the Goldsmiths and RofC are much lower, but I see them as complementary and don't see why we need to set them in opposition.


message 11: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Hugh wrote: "The figures for the Goldsmiths and RofC are much lower, but I see them as complementary and don't see why why need to set them in opposition."

Agreed, and that is the main reason I moved this discussion over here. To attract readers to Goldsmiths or RoC, Booker bashing, at least on this forum, is not the way to go about it. It will be having the opposite effect.


message 12: by Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer (last edited Aug 21, 2018 01:17AM) (new)

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 7145 comments In terms of the 2018 longlist - I have only read the longlist for the last three years, and I would currently place this 2nd of those 3 - a long way ahead of 2016 but a small way behind 2017.

But I can easily imagine my view of the shortlist might be better than last year as many of the book's I really liked last year were culled at the shortlist stage.

We all have our views on which books we liked/did not like but one thing of interest to me (and of relevance to this topic of the diversity/overlap of prizes) is books which win other prizes.

I think I might be correct in saying that books which were longlisted (but not shortlisted) for the 2017 Booker won (either before or after (*) that longlisting): The 2016 Goldsmith, The 2018 Women's Prize (*), The 2018 Dublin Literary Award (*), 2017 Pulitzer Novel Prize, the 2016 National Book Award, the 2016 Costa Novel, 2017 Costa overall and the 2018 Costa Novel award (*).

That's a pretty impressive sweep - every non-translated/novel prize that Robert mentions for instance. But also shows the judges that year went for some already well known options - I think the judges this year have chosen to highlight diversity in books.

I would need to wait 12 months or so to really judge the quality of this year's longlist.


message 13: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments I agree. Assuming 3 stars for the book I haven’t read (seems fair), I have this year well ahead of 2016 but just behind both 2017 and 2015. Those are the four years I have read the full list.


message 14: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3676 comments Mod
Last year's is the only complete longlist I have read, so I can't do a straight comparison, but as Gumble says a lot will depend on what happens at the shortlist stage - if Milkman, Everything Under and In Our Mad and Furious City survive the cull, it will be a better shortlist than last year. Overall the longlist was stronger but less interesting last year, and I value the Booker's continuing ability to surprise us.


message 15: by Ang (last edited Aug 21, 2018 02:08AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Post adding to Hugh's yearly summaries added to main Booker section.


message 16: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3676 comments Mod
Thanks Ang - those are very interesting!


message 17: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Gumble's Yard wrote: "Maybe Diversity of Literature Prizes and move it out of the RoC folder. "

'Diversity of Literary Prizes' would be likely to become a discussion of author demographics, as that's what people would expect under that title, and might open it to participate in. The thread started with the mix of publishers.


message 18: by Hugh (last edited Aug 21, 2018 02:17AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3676 comments Mod
My 2017 shortlist figures are 34 readers 178 rankings (51 and 239 including those carried forward from longlist rankings). In both cases Lincoln in the Bardo topped the poll, but at the longlist stage that was third behind Solar Bones and Home Fire.

If I had the 2016 figures, I don't know what I did with the spreadsheet.


message 19: by Ang (last edited Aug 21, 2018 02:32AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments I think I might have done 2016? Not sure.

269 books longlist, 194 books shortlist. I tended to move votes over from longlist to shortlist if contributors didn't add a separate entry after shortlist announcement, so number of readers ended up higher in shortlist (42).


message 20: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments I haven't missed the request to change the name of the thread, just thinking about what makes the most sense.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 7145 comments Get your point re diversity - maybe Comparison of Literary Prizes

Its probably worth noting that if you want to discuss a prize that was set up explicitly in protest at the quality of books on the Booker (as opposed to the amount the Booker charges to enter) then this thread should be under the Folio Prize.


message 22: by Ang (last edited Aug 21, 2018 02:49AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments The thread is here because of the RoC founder's publicly stated anti-Booker stance as well as Paul's who brings that stance almost verbatim to this forum. They make it clear they would like to see it destroyed.

Also, the Booker does not charge to enter - you have to be willing to contribute if shortlisted (though it may be be longlisted - if it's longlisted, I don't think that's fair because the longlist doesn't gain enough sales to justify).


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 7145 comments You clearly know Neil, Paul and the past/future direction and aims of the Republic of Consciousness Prize much better than I do Ang.


message 24: by Ang (last edited Aug 21, 2018 03:20AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Point taken. I was weary of seeing it dotted all over the forum and thought it was better to be able to air it here. Not sure why you bring Neil into it though - he hasn't made statements against the Booker in reference to RoC that I have noticed.


message 25: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments I'd also like to add that I am not the only person growing weary - my attempts to move this is as a moderator.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 7145 comments Thanks Ang.

And I meant Neil Griffiths - not Neil George (there are too many Neil G's involved!)

Neil Gr (not Ge) is a fairly opinionated You Tuber - and says some controversial things (albeit nothing like what some past judges have said about the Booker - say AL Kennedy - a pile of crooked nonsense" with the winner determined by "who knows who, who's sleeping with who, who's selling drugs to who, who's married to who, whose turn it is") but I think you can judge his real views on the Booker by his reaction when Meike's group included his book in their original shadow longlist.


message 27: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Is that also on YouTube?

(Really weary of YouTube as a book discussion forum... Can almost understand it for those of the age when it's been the main medium rather than blogs. But it takes longer to create and take in, involves saying less in more time, isn't suitable to consume in as many settings, you can't easily find paragraphs in it as you can when skimming a written post, and books aren't for the most part a visual medium for which visual criticism makes sense, in the way it would for art, sport or fashion.)


message 28: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3676 comments Mod
Antonomasia wrote: "Is that also on YouTube?

(Really weary of YouTube as a book discussion forum... Can almost understand it for those of the age when it's been the main medium rather than blogs. But it takes longer..."

I agree - I much prefer written reviews because they are much easier to skim-read.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 7145 comments I am also no fan of You Tube for book reviews/discussions.


message 30: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments I'm not keen on YouTube book reviews either, but will watch if that is where we can find the reaction that Gumble's Yard is referring to.


message 31: by Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer (last edited Aug 21, 2018 03:55AM) (new)

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 7145 comments His reaction to being mentioned was on Twitter and was only he and his publisher tweeting a screenshot of Meike and her group's list. It was actually a screenshot taken from this Forum (I may possibly have been the person who drew their attention to it...)

The there was a short but very nice exchange of tweets between them and Meike.

Its probably easier to find on Meike's twitter feed - MeikeReads

And if you don't already follow her on Twitter then this is your chance.


message 32: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Found it! Hopefully he didn't launch into anti-Booker in Edinburgh on stage this morning with Richard Powers! Joe will let us know.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 7145 comments I really think he is anti big publisher (actually more anti the safety-first stance they have adopted for economic reasons post the crash) and not anti-Booker.

If you look on the RoC website and the reasons for launching the prize that is what is it all about.

We should not forget Neil won the Costa prize - which is at the more popular end of all the prizes.


message 34: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments And that last statement makes me wish it was Neil Ge not Neil Gr you are talking about! If only I could write as well as I can read!


message 36: by Robert (new)

Robert | 2299 comments Ang wrote: "I'm not keen on YouTube book reviews either, but will watch if that is where we can find the reaction that Gumble's Yard is referring to."

I agree - I prefer reading reviews but if the person is well versed then i wouldn't mind seeing a youtube review. Actually if the following had YouTube channels : Neil Ge (the most diplomatic guy on Goodreads) , Paul and GY ( they would make a fantastic siskel and erbert team!) Hugh and Meike were on booktube it give the scene a breath of fresh air.


message 37: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3676 comments Mod
Robert wrote: "Ang wrote: "I'm not keen on YouTube book reviews either, but will watch if that is where we can find the reaction that Gumble's Yard is referring to."

I agree - I prefer reading reviews but if the..."


I can't imagine anything worse - I have always hated any form of performance!


message 38: by Robert (new)

Robert | 2299 comments Hugh wrote: "Robert wrote: "Ang wrote: "I'm not keen on YouTube book reviews either, but will watch if that is where we can find the reaction that Gumble's Yard is referring to."

I agree - I prefer reading rev..."


You could do a review while hiking up a mountain :)


message 39: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments This thread renamed, moved, and the following added to the first post:
For anyone coming to this fresh, it was originally put in the RoC folder with a title that perhaps reflected unfairly on the RoC. I don't think the Booker forum is the best place for it either, so putting it under Other Prizes for now.


message 40: by Neil (last edited Aug 21, 2018 09:16AM) (new)

Neil | 2063 comments But if Meike and I did YouTube channels, you would discover that we are the same person!

Seriously, I can't think of anything more excruciating, both for me and for any potential audience!

And I've never been called "diplomatic" before. I guess it might be a good thing? I'm looking at it as a step up from "inoffensive".


message 41: by Robert (new)

Robert | 2299 comments Neil wrote: "But if Meike and I did YouTube channels, you would discover that we are the same person!

Seriously, I can't think of anything more excruciating, both for me and for any potential audience!

And I'..."


Haha, there would be use of a split screen and you could bounce your complementing remarks. - The channel could be called euro-views.


message 42: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10857 comments Hmmm - not quite sure what to make of finding a new thread was set up to discuss views I posted elsewhere.


message 43: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Elsewhere as in the James Tait Black prize thread you mean? I said that morning I was going to move them but couldn't do it until I got home that evening.


message 44: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Posts can't be moved, so the conversation was copied. I didn't copy the discussion about moving them so maybe you didn't see that.


message 45: by Ang (last edited Aug 25, 2018 12:54AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments For the benefit of anyone who didn't see the discussion of moving posts, rather than shut down a veer off topic, I was trying to move it elsewhere so that it could continue in a more logical place. Goodreads does not lend itself to this kind of moderation though, so I don't think what I did helped at all.


message 46: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10857 comments Thanks Ang - makes sense.


message 47: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Had a bit of difficulty finding the bit I remembered, then realised posts may have been deleted in favour of the starting post in this thread.

Paul wrote: (A rather large number of the RoC books contained rants against my own occupation, one even had a fantasy about putting bankers to death).

https://www.ft.com/content/6e3e5b2c-a... (This appears to be open access, unlike a lot of FT articles.)

You may well have seen this article by now, given where it was published, but the [perception of] its being relatively unusual to find crossover between 'merchant elite' and 'cultural elite' will have a lot to do with this.

(Along with this (based on Authentocrats: Culture, Politics and the New Seriousness about more mundane and provincial settings, it is good to see more perception of culture and wealth as partly separate attributes and economic classes as not monolithic, although highly educated with low income and over 30 still seems an almost invisible group outside arts content.)


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