So the Booker shortlist is out, and as usual I find myself wondering whether a quorum of monkeys throwing darts couldn't have done a better job of picking the deserving books. I've only read four of the six books on the shortlist - I can't see myself reading The Northern Clemency (700 something pages about the Thatcher years? No thanks) and I haven't managed to get my hands on the Ghosh yet - but of those both the Grant and the Adiga absolutely do not deserve to be on that list, not at the expense of Netherland and The Enchantress of Florence (I'm not saying the Rushdie deserves to win or anything, only that it's a better book than the other two - NOT a high bar).
I'm particularly pained about the Adiga, not so much because I thought it was unreadable, but because coming so soon after the shortlisting of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, its inclusion means that for the foreseeable future we shall be plagued by this this-should-really-be-an-essay-but-no-one-would-read-that-so-let-me-make-up-a-few-wooden-characters-and-call-it-a-novel school of writing. Even as I write this someone is doubtless hard at work on next year's nominee - a novel about a 'typical' young woman growing up in the 'real' India, told as a hyper-erudite first-person confession to a visiting Martian - secure in the knowledge that as long as you give a few media interviews emphasizing how your book offers an 'alternate' perspective someone, somewhere is bound to find it insightful.
Of the books now on the shortlist, my pick would be the Toltz, though as I said, I haven't read the Ghosh. The book I'm really looking forward to reading, shortlist or no shortlist, is the Berger (which seems to be unavailable in the US at this point - at least the library system doesn't have it), though next on my list is A Case of Exploding Mangoes, which, now that it hasn't been shortlisted, I actually have high expectations from.