Friday, September 09, 2005

A triumph for British and Irish fiction

THE SHORTLIST is out finally. Sadly, James Meek’s The People’s Act of Love is not on it! John Banville, Julian Barnes and playwright Sebastian Barry are in. And both Ali Smith and Zadie Smith are in as well. The only former Booker Prize winner to make it to the final round is Kazuo Ishiguro (who won the Booker Prize in 1989 for The Remains of the Day), while J.M. Coetzee, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie failed to make the shortlist. It is also sad that many good novels were excluded, especially Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black. Faber & Faber and Hamish Hamilton each has two books on the shortlist, while Picador and Jonathan Cape each has a book on the shortlist.

I’m rooting for Ali Smith and Sebastian Barry, though I think Julian Barnes will finally get his Booker Prize. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is good, but not as good as The Remains of the Day (1989). Zadie Smith’s On Beauty is a modern reworking and a wonderful homage to E.M. Forster’s Howards End (1910), but I think White Teeth (1999) is the better book. However, On Beauty is not an easy book to write. I think John Banville wrote a better book with The Book of Evidence (1989). However, Julian Barnes, Sebastian Barry and Ali Smith may have written their best books. Therefore, my money’s on Julian Barnes’s Arthur & George, Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way and Ali Smith’s The Accidental. Barnes has written a very well realised, polished effort that deserves to be acknowledged.

The winner of the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction will be announced on October 10, 2005.

The Sea (Picador) / John Banville
Arthur & George (Jonathan Cape) / Julian Barnes
A Long Long Way (Faber & Faber) / Sebastian Barry
Never Let Me Go (Faber & Faber) / Kazuo Ishiguro
The Accidental (Hamish Hamilton) / Ali Smith
On Beauty (Hamish Hamilton) / Zadie Smith


Blogger Susan Abraham said...

Hi Eric,

There's always a drama with the Booker, isn't there. And it looks like judges each year enjoy shocking their observers. 2 Septembers ago it was Martin Amis. There were all these news reports that he was going to win, had to be shortlisted and his new book was rushed out to meet the deadline. He was displayed everywhere on book store windows overnight with its lemon yellow for a cover. Then just as fashionably as he was catwalked in at the last minute, he was gallantly kicked out the back door and never even made it to the shortlist. Instantly, he was pulled out from the Booker displays again and hardly anyone said a word afterwards. I watched it all in London as the book's nervous hype and then its fall, thumped up heartbeats with the same passion as a football penalty kick.
Having read Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown, I'm not surprised though I hold its author in great admiration. Perhaps from my understanding, there was this added view to please after a long spell. And even a genius can falter. A political correctness that was contrived and too hard to please can mess things up.
I'm glad Barnes got in as he's been very much the Booker's "the last injured boy with the limp from the famed Pied Piper of Hamlin story" Still the misfortune of being recognised as brilliant but missing the big prize.
Barne's book is gorgeous to touch, feel and hold though. It's jacket skin feels like a cross between the softest suede and velvet.
As for McEwan, there were many complaints amongst literary circles in Great Britain and even in some noteworthy news reviews from early on this year that he deliberately engaged in unneccesarily long words that were either overused or long gone with the dinasaur age. Of course, this was his style throughout the book and again, a deliberate show of brilliance that may have worked against him. This time round, many in Britain had a problem with Saturday so his exclusion may not come as a surprise.
Bets are often made on the predictability of past wins, popularity and accomplishments.
Anyway, there are plenty of good rounds of reading this autumn. As you said, what a pity it is that there can be only one prize for the Booker.
But considering the thousands and thousands of books published in Great Britain, Tash Aw must consider it a valued accomplishment to even have been put on the longlist. That itself is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
warmest regards

Friday, September 09, 2005 4:46:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Forbes said...

Yes, well said, Susan. I am glad that Sebastian Barry and Ali Smith made it to the shortlist. Sadly, Hilary Mantel and James Meek failed to make it. I am rooting for Sebastian Barry and Ali Smith, though I think this will be Julian Barnes's year. All said, I did enjoy all the books on the shortlist!

As for Ian McEwan's Saturday (2005), I believe McEwan is one of the best writers writing in the U.K. today. There's no doubt about that. And in Saturday, he documents a day in the so-far perfect life of a successful London neurosurgeon. In lesser hands most probably such a premise will not work. But in the hands of a prose stylist like McEwan, what we have is a richly textured literary sleight-of-hand, though I very much preferred his last novel, Atonement (2001). But then, you don't really read McEwan for plot - more for the way the story is narrated. He should have won the Booker Prize for Atonement - not Saturday, I think. But then, he has already won the 1998 Booker Prize for Fiction for Amsterdam (1998).

Friday, September 09, 2005 7:02:00 PM  
Blogger Susan Abraham said...

What you said is very interesting Eric. On another note, I haven't yet read Zadie Smith's On Beauty but she has received a lot of flak from the public already. - all kinds: media and other personalities who have read this story. That her book to put it plain and simple has lost the plot. Not one person has said anything nice and people still praise her earlier funny works and long for those but agree universally that she has lost it. I think many felt a lack of editing (the general view is that it could easily have been cut by a whole third) and rambling overworked lines filled with a verbosity that didn't say anything...and many story potentials that would criss-cross one another. After hearing all this, I watched another BBC talk show last night and all the 5 personalities interviewed who did not agree on the subject of films and music, agreed together about Zadie Smith's book, On Beauty. The Booker committee is the only one who appears to have shown favour but people don't even seem to care about that these days. They just want the author to keep up with its standards. That seems to be a higher criteria with the British reading public these days than the Booker prize and with it, the upcoming slow protest of its shortlisted selection. Zadie used to be very popular but even journalists are rebelling because she ran down England in favour of America. Still, England gave her the fame that spilt over worldwide before anyone else. On returning recently, she criticised everything and everyone from tube stations & peoples faces... Journalists know too well that without her agent/publisher, she'd be nowhere. I observe that slight events like these are starting to build up to a monumental annoyance will slowly but surely change the face that begets the present merit and acclaim of the Booker in the following years. In a quiet way, I see this coming already.
Warmest Regards

Saturday, September 10, 2005 5:00:00 AM  
Blogger Susan Abraham said...

Oh and Eric...I forgot to add after my last few lines that the merit of the Booker will change especially after the way people feel so strongly about On Beauty... if it ends up winning.

Saturday, September 10, 2005 5:03:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Forbes said...

I believe Zadie Smith has done very well for herself. We must admit that for someone not yet thirty, Smith is an incredible writer. Can you imagine what she is going to produce in the next ten years?

Saturday, September 10, 2005 5:34:00 AM  
Blogger Susan Abraham said...

Hi again Eric, Definitely for someone under 30 and for that time of her life...but people look back to a past that won't return so she may have to keep growing into the present & the future. So for the question as to what she would write in 10 years time? I'll read On Beauty with a definite concentration and post you my personal answer afterwards. cheers!

Saturday, September 10, 2005 6:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Ernie Vanicek said...

are you serious?

Sunday, December 18, 2005 9:56:00 AM  

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