Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anne ENRIGHT ... The Gathering (Jonathan Cape, 2007)

Irish novelist Anne Enright’s bleak yet funny tale of troubled family life set in good old Dublin scoops the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. This is the second win for an Irish writer in two years; John Banville won it for The Sea in 2005. She is the second Irishwoman to win the prize; Iris Murdoch won it for The Sea, The Sea in 1978, some 29 years ago. (Of course, Roddy Doyle won it for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha in 1993.) Enright won one of the literary world’s most prestigious awards for her controlled prose and her skillful use of figurative language. Hard to believe, but 2008 will be the 40th year of the Booker Prize for Fiction; the prize was first awarded in 1969. Can you imagine who would win it same time next year?

ENRIGHT Anne [1962-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in Dublin, Ireland. Novels The Gathering (2007: winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction); The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (2002); What Are You Like? (2000: winner of the 2001 Encore Award; shortlisted for the 2000 Whitbread Novel Award); The Wig My Father Wore (1995) Stories Taking Pictures (2008); The Portable Virgin (1991: winner of the 1991 Rooney Prize for Literature and shortlisted for the Irish Times/Aer Lingus Irish Literature Prize) Nonfiction Making Babies: Stumbling Into Motherhood (2004)

Read what Janet Tay and Sharon Bakar has to say


Anonymous Janet said...

Am very pleased that Anne Enright won, well-deserved! Am less pleased about Howard Davies's comments on how book reviewers are less inclined to criticise seasoned writers. His comments are brisk and ill-informed, sweeping statements that conclude that Jeanette Winterson's 'The Stone Gods' was "odd", Ben Okri's 'Starbook' has "just not worked" and J.M. Coetzee's 'Diary of a Bad Year' is 'a strange construct which [doesn't] come[s] off as a novel'. Is this Davies's way of justifying the reasons behind the huge exclusion of seasoned authors in this year's Man Booker longlist, or is it simply his way of paving the way for the future of 'simple' and 'readable' books that exclude experimental and 'difficult' books? Davies appears to be highly misguided as to what makes a good book--it isn't necessarily something that has a fashionable story, something that you can read once easily and then proclaim to be fabulous merely because of its accessibility. Some great novels in history have been trudging reads, and subjected to many attempts of interpretation in every aspect--theme, stylistics etc. Yet, such a book today might be regarded by Davies as being too 'experimental' or perhaps does not even fit into his archaic and simplified definition of what a novel is supposed to be.

How would a novel like 'Ulysses', published in this day and age be regarded by Davies, I wonder? Possibly 'a strange construct' that doesn't come off as a novel as well?

I say keep an open mind and don't just limit the idea of the novel to fixed categories. The story is certainly important, but so is the voice/style of the author.

A further quote from Davies:
"Novels are not academic works where you need to know everything about George IV to review the latest biography. Greater diversity would be better." I'm not sure if this is Davies' way of apologising for ignorance when one reads a difficult novel, but suffice to say that one should not shy from what appears inaccessible simply because one is ill-equipped with the requisite knowledge.

As Ben Okri writes in 'Starbook',
one must learn to love the "way of representing what [is] familiar or unfamiliar" and "to be amazed by that which [one does] not understand."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Davies Rocks! :-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger bibliobibuli said...

Janet- his comments are brief but he probably has valid reasons for holding this views - just that he didn't expand on them. it's frustrating because you want to sit the guy down and have a good talk to him about what he thinks about the books he disses.

and as for difficulty ... i'm finding nichole barker requiring a level of patience and trust i'm not sure at the moment is going to be repaid! (i'm on about page 100 and debaring whether to use the bloody book as a doorstop instead)

anne enright isn't exactly a laugh a minute either. am finding it very interesting that so many of the people who like the book (inc the judges)had to read it more than once to appreciate it! is that a sign of rich writing or just that it's not working well enough to have a more immediate impact? i actually did like the book very much ... but only after i came back to it a second time. (if i hadn't been reviewing it i think i would have ditched it by the second chapter but i'm glad i was forced to go on)

there is i think nothing at all wrong with a book being readable! difficulty of reading doesn't make a book a single smidgen truer or more important! in fact it is often the hallmark of a self-obsessed, lazy writer (discuss haha!)

but don't listen to me, i think joyce is vastly overrated and needlessly obscure. i enjoyed sean walsh's film of "ulysses" far more than the book, thinking "ooohhh so that was what the thing was all about"

sharon (spoiling for a post-booker fight and playing devil's advocate!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 2:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is just not good enough. Darkmans is too experimental a drudge for me to go through. I thoroughly enjoyed On Chesil Beach but it is somehow too minor a novel to win the prize.

I though Mister Pip reads rather well. Animal's People has an engaging protagonist whom I could empathise with. So humorously sad. Though The Gathering looks like another Irish story, the prose is wonderful. But it is not an easy read.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Davies said many valid things which NEEDED to be said, with no bullshit or waffling, he got straight to the heart of things. I agree with Sharon/Bibliobibuli's views. And just because it's the latest Coetzee or some other pretentious writer doesn't automatically guarantee a novel's quality. And if I have to pay a ridiculous amount to buy the book so Coetzee can be subsidized to 'experiment' then forget it. Experiment at home, THEN if it works, have it published. If not, go back to being shitty to your students.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 5:39:00 PM  
Blogger bibliobibuli said...

anonymous - i think you just summed up my views too!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 6:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Janet said...

Hi Sharon, was itching to reply sooner but had some work to do.

>his comments are brief but he >probably has valid reasons for >holding this views - just that he >didn't expand on them.

I have no quibble with his opinion, just his way of justifying them! It's all very well to say that veteran writers shouldn't just be given lip service by reviewers, of course I agree on this, I mean who in their right minds wouldn't? It's just that I get exremely irritated when people make pronouncements without thoroughly investigating the basis of their statements. Don't get me wrong - I say judge every book on its merit, not who the writer is. But that's precisely what Davies ISN'T doing - he appears to be snubbing these veterans simply because they ARE veterans. And to make these alleged "daring" statements in what seems to me is a frivolous manner, and that just really irks me.

>anne enright isn't exactly a >laugh a minute either. am finding >it very interesting that so many >of the people who like the book
>(inc the judges)had to read it >more than once to appreciate it! >is that a sign of rich writing or >just that it's not working well >enough to have a more immediate >impact?

To be honest, I already thought Enright was one of the better writers from the longlist, only by comparing the excerpts that I've read. Her writing (from the excerpt) showed a lot more skill and maturity compared to most of the other books.

>there is i think nothing at all >wrong with a book being readable! >difficulty of reading doesn't >make a book a single smidgen >truer or more important!

You misunderstand me, I think! I'm certainly not saying there's anything at all wrong with a book being readable - in fact, some of the best books are written well AND readable. I'm just saying that Davies appears to dismiss books in his airy way by just recklessly categorising them as "odd" or something that isn't a novel. And I'm certainly not saying that difficult novels are better, far from it. He's the one placing novels in all these narrow-minded categories, and that's what I'm ranting about.

* takes a deep breath *

Now on to anonymous' comments:

>Davies said many valid things >which NEEDED to be said,

Agreed, but there's no point jumping on the bandwagon on the things that "need[ed] to be said" when the credibility of the person who said it is suspect! I can stamp my foot for animal rights and cry foul at fur-wearing people but surely I should also be reasonably intelligent and articulate as I put forward my arguments?

>with no bullshit or waffling, he >got straight to the heart of >things.

Well he certainly didn't waffle, but I'm not so sure about the bullshitting... ;) Making sweeping statements isn't my idea of getting to the heart of things.

>And just because it's the latest >Coetzee or some other pretentious >writer doesn't automatically >guarantee a novel's quality.

Of course not. As I said, judge a book on its merits. But the way Davies comments about the books makes me feel that he either didn't read them, or he'd read them with a closed mind. Or he's just a bad reader! (oooh!)

>And if I have to pay a ridiculous >amount to buy the book so Coetzee >can be subsidized to 'experiment' >then forget it. Experiment at >home, THEN if it works, have it >published.

Minor point here, but I don't think his book was as experimental as Davies thinks. I'd read the book already and found it very accessible. Hence, my discomfort at Davies's rash judgments!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger bibliobibuli said...

janet and anon and eric - i love the fact that we're talking, really talking our minds about books here! wish it were over a cup of coffee ;-D

janet - you base your thoughts on enright on excerpts, and yes, she probably comes out v. well on that criteria as she does write extremely well ... i am looking forward to hearing your views on the novel as a whole. on first reading does chapter two work for you?? i couldn't believe how out of context it seemed at the time, and how painfully painfully slow. had i been a picky reader i'd have junked it at this point, thinking this woman has no idea how to involve a reader. but i am patient and i read and reread and valued the whole thing in the end ...

i'm not sure about davies dismisses ... you could well be right. his words on jeanet winterson's seemed incredibly harsh. but i don't know till i've read the books. (except for okri whom i've vowed never to touch again after being made so miserable by "the famished road")

Friday, October 19, 2007 5:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We must admit that when all is said and done, Anne Enright's The Gathering is indeed a Booker kind of book. We should have seen it from the beginning. I read somewhere it was called in by the judges; Jonathan Cape did not submit it for the Prize!

Friday, October 19, 2007 6:25:00 PM  

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