Yet I am less keen on the Booker Prize than I used to be. If I didn't have access to British newspapers, the literary gossip wouldn't ruin prizes for me.
In 2011, the Booker scene was a burlesque worthy of Kingsley Amis or Pamela Hansford Johnson. First, Carmen Calil, the founder of Virago Books, resigned from the International Booker Prize panel of judges because she believed the prize should not have gone to Philip Roth. Next, the chair of the judges for the Man Booker Prize, Dame Stella Rimington, emphasized the prize would go for readability, and the panel shortlisted many poorly-written, violent books.
|2012 Man Booker Prize Judges|
That was a bad PR move.
I am very glad I don't live in England, because there was something so humorless about the way Robert McCrum of The Observer/Guardian, normally not a literary gossiper, stuck together with him over his indiscretion. On Stothard's statement that not all opinions were equal, McCrum said,
"Rather than simply denounce this position, I think we should take it seriously. Stothard has a point: the citizen journalist's review is not the same as the professional critic's."Of course the point is that neither one reads blogs, or they wouldn't believe that bloggers were competing with them.
As for the high literary standards of the Booker judges, I have my own opinions.
A bookmaker told The Telegraph earlier today that Mantel’s novel was favored (6/4) over Will Self’s Umbrella (2/1). I knew Umbrella would not win. Despite Stothard's emphasis on high standards, it would have been suicide to select Umbrella, a brilliant, possibly great, obscure "Joycean" novel. Since bloggers all over the world missed the allusion to the Kinks' "Apeman" in the first sentence (and I wonder if all the judges caught that allusion), it is safe to say that book buyers would not have been happy.
Stothard (apparently) said, according to the Guardian, that the judging was a process of "rigorous literary criticism." I think we can trust him on that.
I will happily write him and all the judges a fan letter if I read Mantel's novel and love it.
If I read and love Narcopolis, one of the finalists on my coffee table, I will write another fan letter to the judges.
Honestly, I don't have anything against them.
I am a friend of literature, I hope.