Thursday, September 11, 2008

Booker shortlist

Linda Grant is my choice

“These novels are intensely readable, each of them an extraordinary example of imagination and narrative.”

In his press conference, Michael Portillo, the chair of the Booker jury, does not utter the word 'literature' even once. He does not emphasize on the originality or voice of any writer. Evidently, the focus of the Booker award has shifted from the quality fiction to the popular/pulp fiction. And the judges are no longer interested in literary fiction alone. Now it can be any kind of fiction, even a bad thriller, that the jury can take into consideration. What a shift for the prestigious literary award!
-------------------------------------------------------------------The Man Booker Prize 2008 shortlisted novels are:
Aravind Adiga The White Tiger (Atlantic)
Sebastian Barry The Secret Scripture (Faber and Faber)
Amitav Ghosh Sea of Poppies (John Murray)
Linda Grant The Clothes on Their Backs (Virago)
Philip Hensher The Northern Clemency (Fourth Estate)
Steve Toltz A Fraction of the Whole (Hamish Hamilton)
This year's judging panel is chaired by Michael Portillo former MP and Cabinet Minister. He is joined by Alex Clark, editor of Granta; Louise Doughty, novelist; James Heneage, founder of Ottakar's bookshops and Hardeep Singh Kohli, TV and radio broadcaster

------------------------------------------------------------------ As we all know, the Booker longlist this year was mediocre. They took all sorts of fiction based on their new criteria -even such crappy books as Child 44 and Girl in a Blue Dress. It was expected they would pare down to a shorter, reasonable shortlist this year. Nope. The shortlist has six titles, and most are the kind that you would give up reading half-way and even in case you finish them, you would never like to recall your reading experience.

The only book that I liked is Linda Grant’s The Clothes on their Backs.It is based on 70's immigrant experience, and addresses various questions about the nature of suffering and survival. It is an outstanding work in terms of both theme and treatment. Of course, I would like this title to be the winner.

But I’ve kind of hunch that Linda would not make it in the final round. Amitav Ghosh is in the list, and he is now the best and most suitable contender by establishment metrics. All efforts might now be directed to make him the winner.


John Self said...

I agree with your assessment, Mrinal, on all counts. However I have given up on hoping for the Booker Prize jury to make the right decision, even from within a wrong longlist. Then again, just as they perversely failed to select many of the best books of the year for the longlist, perhaps they will traverse my expectations and select the best of the shortlist to be the winner! Go Linda etc!

Mrinal Bose said...

John, I hope you were true! But the thing is, there's now a huge machinery working overtime to make literature a part of the entertainment industry. The Booker Prize jury is simply a part of it. It's more interested in awarding a fashionable writer than a real writer.

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