August 01, 2009

The Price of the Man Booker

The Longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2009 was announced on July 28th. If you haven't already seen it, here it is, including the book which, rumour has it, hasn’t even appeared in print yet -- that would be JM Coetzee's Summertime, which makes it on by droit de seigneur, or, as they call it, fishing a title.

AS Byatt The Children's Book
JM Coetzee Summertime
Adam Foulds The Quickening Maze
Sarah Hall How to paint a dead man
Samantha Harvey The Wilderness
James Lever Me Cheeta
Hilary Mantel Wolf Hall
Simon Mawer The Glass Room
Ed O'Loughlin Not Untrue & Not Unkind
James Scudamore Heliopolis
Colm Toibin Brooklyn
William Trevor Love and Summer
Sarah Waters The Little Stranger
Here’s what I’ve been doing since I got the news:

1. I put my foot in my mouth in front of Carole Beu of the Women's Bookshop (yes Carole I saw your look, even if I could also see that a minute later you had forgiven me) by saying that I always get Sarah Hall and Sarah Waters mixed up and now it was going to be worse than ever.

2. I had a quick look at the US Indie bestsellers list, the only list I trust, and …unbelievable! – one of the books is on it! That would be… Brooklyn, home to a great bridge, some great Spike Lee movies, and an interesting indie bookstore or two, I’m sure.

3. I had a good chuckle reading the opinion of a British author named Damien G. Walter, writer of weird and speculative fiction (as his blog announces), in a piece he titled “The Booker longlist is ignorant and bigoted". It begins:

In previous years I have compared the Booker judges to the organising committee of a village fete. This year I think it would be fairer to ditch the metaphors and out them as the ethnicaly pure, upper middle class cartel they are. The only praise I can think to heap upon The Booker is that it is at least open in its utter class snobbery and borderline bigotry.

And lets be clear, the reason names such as China Mieville, Ian McDonald, Iain Banks, M John Harrison, Neil Gaiman, Jon Courtney Grimwood or any of the other superlative British authors of speculative fiction are excluded without consideration from The Booker, is nothing to do with quality of writing and everything to do with social discrimination. The Booker Prize and the literary fiction it rewards are the province of a small minded and ignorant cultural elite who are desperate to cling onto status and power.

The phrase “ethnically pure, upper middle class cartel” linked to the Man Booker website where the judges were presented thusly:

“An eclectic line-up of judges was announced on Tuesday 16th December for the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction."

Damien G. Walter has a point. Eclectic, you say? Hmm, let’s see:

James Naughtie – BBC broadcaster and academic ;
Lucasta Miller - author of a book about the Brontes;
John Mullan – broadcaster and academic;
Michael Prodger – literary editor and judge of a BBC literary prize;
Sue Perkins – broadcaster and “is filming a BBC show” where she eats offal and cow brains in restrictive corsetry.

Sue would definitely be their only hope to gain eclecticism standing, I say, although I think eclecticism might actually have to be a plural thing.

4. I discovered on

 The Price of the Two Nest-eggs:

A Literary prize French, created in 1933 - the very same day of the handing-over of the Prix Goncourt with André Malraux - with the terrace of the coffee the Two Nest eggs by the writer Roger Vitrac and a Bibliothécaire (nb from Karen: means Librarian). They joined together at once a jury of thirteen Auteurs which brought each one 100 francs and selected the Grass of Raymond Queneau.
Raymond Queneau, an Auteur who was obsessed with experimenting with language, would have loved this marvelous piece of writing, created perhaps by automatic online translation, our century’s version of the automatic writing his surrealist friends practiced, or maybe by a modern incarnation of Zazie, the heroine of his most famous, wonderful and funny book Zazie in the metro, about a girl from the provinces who comes to Paris to ride the metro, and can't because there was a strike, and engages with this problem -- and with life in general -- in a slang all her own.

The “Price of the Two Nest-eggs” is actually a certain “Prix des Deux Magots”, a prize sponsored by the famous sidewalk café ("the terrace of the coffee" above) in Saint-Germain-des-Pres where half of literary Paris hung out during the past century, from Hemingway down through Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. The other half were at the Café de Flore. Of one of the two, I can never remember which, it was said that if you sat there long enough everyone you knew would walk by. Deux magots does not mean two nest-eggs, or even two maggots; it means the Café's two wooden statues of Chinese merchants.

I hope no one is offended by my laughing at bad Franglais. I mean, if you can't laugh at Franglais, well, what can you laugh at?

And finally... The Price of the Man Booker?
That would be L.50,000, I think. Give or take a sou.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 03:30


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