Monday, October 10, 2005

All at Sea


Once, just once, I'd like to agree with the judges of the Booker prize. I can't remember when the last time that happened was. Probably back in the early 90s (remember How late it was, how late; remember The English Patient, remember Possession). Since then it's been one long legacy of disagreement.

This year is no exception. They put six books on the shortlist. I read four of them (so far). Of the four I read, the one I like the least is John Banville's The Sea (my review here). So, naturally they have to go give it the prize. It would kill them to agree with me, wouldn't it?

Oh well, at least Schelling got the Nobel.

P.S. The thing that most irritates me about the Booker is the way they seem to give the prize to deserving novelists for the wrong book. Imagine giving Coetzee a prize for Disgrace, but not for Waiting for the Barbarians or Master of Petersburg. Or giving Atwood the prize for Blind Assassin but not for Surfacing or Handmaid's Tale or Alias Grace. I haven't read enough of Banville to judge, but what little I have suggests that the Sea is not his best book.


Jabberwock said...

Giving the prize to a deserving candidate for what isn't his best work is a common enough phenomenon at these high-profile competitive awards. The Oscars do it all the time - remember Paul Newman winning for The Color of Money, or John Wayne for True Grit, many other examples.

But even when an artist does win for his most highly rated work, a certain amount of inverse snobbery does set in. I often find myself seeking out his other work and eventually being more impressed by the low-profile, unawarded stuff.

Falstaff said...

Jabberwock: Agree completely (though I'm proud of the Oscars for resisting the temptation to give Scorsese and Oscar for the crap he's turning out now). It's just that somehow with the Oscars I don't mind so much because it's just Hollywood and so I'm conditioned to think of it as all random showbusiness. I know it's illogical and biased, but I think books deserve to be treated more seriously.

And yes, I've done the inverse snobbery bit as well (I will argue till my dying day, for instance, that Tender is the Night is a better book than Gatsby) - but even if this were Banville's best book ever, I still don't think he deserved to win.

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