Literary Prizes discussion

Booker 2007

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message 1: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
The impetus for starting this group, really, is the frighteningly boring-looking bunch of books that got picked for the Booker longlist this year. I have not read a single one, but I've read reviews, and the only ones that look like they might raise my pulse above a coma are The Reluctant Fundamentalist and On Chesil Beach.

Does anyone who's better acquainted with this year's crop want to comment? Anyone read any of them yet?

[ETA: commentary only slightly less shallow than mine to be found on the Guardian's site, here:]

message 2: by Lavina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new)

Lavina (lavina_l) | 6 comments I read On Chesil Beach and loved it -- as a strong novella. But worthy of the Booker? I'm not so sure, although I haven't been particularly impressed by the past few shortlists.

message 3: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
Yeah, the Booker committee always seems like it's trying to buck some kind of popular trend favoring books that people read and enjoy. [ETA: [book:On Chesil Beach] and The Reluctant Fundamentalist on the way... can't wait to read them.]

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

unfortunately, no validated comments since i've not read any of them. but honestly, there's nothing on that list that sounds remotely compelling enough for me to bump off a book from my current to-read list...
i do agree those lists are a bit too 'trendy' for my tastes...

message 5: by C. (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new)

C. | 10 comments I've got to echo everyone else with only really being interested in The RF and the McEwan. Not that I was interested enough this year to read or buy either of them, mind you, but were I to read two books on the list, those would be them.

message 6: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
The problem is that the Booker people are always expecting their award to do for an obscure author what Eurovision did for ABBA. The difference being that it takes two minutes and change to listen to "Waterloo" and several hundred times that to read Darkmans.

I also find it mystifying that the Booker people reject American literature. Maybe someone can explain this, in such a way that it doesn't seem asinine.

message 7: by Lavina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new)

Lavina (lavina_l) | 6 comments The Booker's just for citizens of the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland.

message 8: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
Well, yeah, I know that, but why? Doesn't anyone think that reduces its relevance a little bit?

message 9: by Lavina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Lavina (lavina_l) | 6 comments I guess we have the Pulitzer?

message 10: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
There's so little idiomatic difference between Canadian English (permissible, eh?) and American English that to allow the one and forbid the other... well, I'm just going to choose to believe they're still mad at us about Yorktown, and leave it at that.

message 11: by C. (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

C. | 10 comments Doesn't it seem just a bit odd that England gives out an award to its former colonies?

Which, technically, should include us. Though I just checked the Wikipedia entry and discovered that Mozambique is a member even though they were never a colony. Perhaps we should ask to join, just so our authors can get a shot at the award. We might have the Pulitzer, but England also has the Whitbread, so its not like there's a shortage of awards to go around.

And did anyone else know that the Whitbread is now the Costa Coffee Award?

message 12: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
Why make the whole country join the Commonwealth when you can just immigrate? I've been looking for an excuse to become a citizen of Vanuatu for awhile now, and now I have the perfect one!

message 13: by Lara (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:58AM) (new)

Lara I think that there is a very distinct difference between English literature and American literature...I don't think a Brit could have written 'All The Pretty Horses' for instance.

English literature, to me, is polished, while American literature is gritty. At least in instances where it is obviously attempting to place itself securely in a country/ethnography/history.

I'm glad the Booker and Pulitzer are separate, as they keep the two voices alive without sacrificing one or the other annually.

message 14: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:58AM) (new)

Kate (kate-schmate) | 7 comments While there may be distinctive American and English voices, that certainly doesn't account for the Booker, which can be awarded to writers in over 50 countries (most of which presumably consider their literature distinct from the English as well).

Obviously there's reasoning behind the eligibility requirements for all these prizes (e.g., the Pulitzer being originally and perhaps primarily intended for recognition in journalism). But ultimately it can't be denied that there is a degree of arbitrariness as well, more in some cases than in others. The Man Booker Prize, characterized more by hype and advertising than by the eligible writers' identification with the political institution that supposedly ties them all together, is at the more arbitrary end.

The most un-arbitrary factor that distinguishes one work of writing from others is the language in which it is written, but for some ungodly reason, no one seems to want to have a prize for "best english language book."

message 15: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:02PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
Just finished The Reluctant Fundamentalist, from which I learned that the nice terrorist fellows are mostly inspired by (a) their failed relationships with whorish American women, (b) Pablo Neruda, and (c) a righteous hatred of finance. Well, plus our national sense of entitlement.

message 16: by Annette (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:02PM) (new)

Annette I'm hearing some good preliminary things about Nicola Barker's Darkmans. But, I don't think it will be in the U.S. for a while - it is showing unavailable on Amazon. In the meantime, I'm working on my own "Booker (not)" list and am reading Ondaatje's new one Divisadero. Quite excellent.

message 17: by Nico (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:25PM) (new)

Nico | 5 comments I'm new to this board but it seems this thread might be moribund, except for the fact that the Bookers were just shortlisted—So McEwan made it, which was to be expected as did Hamid's "Fundamentalist". But what about the others. "Darkmans" by Barker is supposed to be brilliant, and about really nothing, but it is frustratingly not yet in print here. The surprise is Lloyd Jone's "Pip" which the bookies have brought to the fore (it entered at 20 to 1 and is now 2 to 1 while Mcewan has dropped to 5 to 1) Has anyone read this? Only a few more days to be able to casually say "Oh, yes I read that..."

message 18: by Rob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:25PM) (new)

Rob McMonigal | 11 comments I put a few of the short list books on my to-read list that sounded interesting, but not to be able to say I read a Booker or anything.


message 19: by C. (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:27PM) (new)

C. | 10 comments Funny, I was inspired to become a terrorist because of my failed relationship with a whorish Pablo Neruda and a entitled hatred of righteous women.

message 20: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:28PM) (new)

Mark I tried to read On Chesil Beach but I hated it hated it hated it. I'd rather take Tylenol PM. At least the crashingly boring Ishiguro isn't on the list this year. I think I'll try the Barker book.

message 21: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:29PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
I finished On Chesil Beach the other day, and while I concede that it has problems - no one is going to argue with a writer who wants to rag on Britons for their sexual repression, and also, it's an object lesson in how to Make A Point through pacing - but I was still moved by the poignant, understated ending.

As opposed to The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Anyone read Mr. Pip who wants to comment on it?

I too really wish Darkmans was on sale here. Do American publishers not realize that if they would only get their hustle on BEFORE the prize, it'd probably bump the sales of everything on the shortlist, and everyone would benefit? There's a demand there that dissipates as soon as all those other books lose. Nice little market inefficiency waiting to be exploited stateside...

message 22: by Lavina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:29PM) (new)

Lavina (lavina_l) | 6 comments I assume people have heard that Mister Pip is now the favorite?

I plan on reading this soon.

message 23: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:29PM) (new)

Mark Conrad -- I couldn't find Darkmans here either. I'll check into Mr. Pip. Yeah, the repression bugged me in On Chesil Beach; it seemed like it was going to strangle everything, including me the reader.

message 24: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
So now that we're a couple months into the shortlist, I figured I'd bump this thread.

I've read The Reluctant Fundamentalist and On Chesil Beach. I just got a copy of Mister Pip, which I'm looking forward to reading. Darkmans is still impossible to find in the States, though if you feel like sinking thirty or forty bucks into it you can order a copy through

Anyone here read any more shortlisted books lately? And in a totally off-topic question, why are there almost no UK members of Goodreads?

message 25: by Donna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:07PM) (new)

Donna Kirk I am sittiing on the Reluctant Fundementalist as a possible read but I haven't bought it yet and I came across your review...I was wondering, was the arguments made in the book nuanced and enlightened in imparting a deeper understanding of fundementalism and the "nice terrorist fellows" or, I wonder if you meant that tongue and cheek? Was it dissapointing and kind of shallow? Oh, and how is the writing?

message 26: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:07PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
This is just my opinion, mind you, and I've read plenty of reviews that disagree. I personally found the emotional trajectory of the main character - which I can't trace here, because I don't want to spoil the book - a little hard to believe. It wasn't really shallow, exactly, it just wrongly purports that terrorism is or can be an act of "enlightened" self-interest, the logical continuation of resistance to colonialism. I disagree.

Also, I was looking forward to an at least cursory discussion of the place of faith in politics, and vice versa, but despite the title, there are no religious fundamentalists in the book. That's quite an omission.

The author closed his eyes to a range of human behavior and psychology that I think is essential to explaining the drive to destroy others. That makes the book as much a cop-out as if it said that all Muslims are insane people who run around murdering Westerners for no reason. I don't regret reading it, but honoring the book would make no sense, like giving an A to a half-finished term paper.

message 27: by Donna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:07PM) (new)

Donna Kirk I understand what you mean because, right, can killing oneself violently ever be an act of enlightened self-interest? If so, why? I was hoping he would touch on that but heard that it read as more of a visceral declaration.

Make 'em work for the A.

message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Interesting comment on the Booker prize.

message 29: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Conrad | 45 comments Mod
Who is the Booker ancien regime, exactly? Isn't there a new panel of judges every year?

message 30: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Mark I'm confused. They generated a shortlist but picked a winner out of the longlist! I'll have to check this book out.

Conrad, I think the writer of the piece in The Guardian just wanted to use that cool phrase "ancien regime." Seems like a quite educated phrase. Ha ha!

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