Thursday, February 21, 2008

banal Booker blitherings

No money (or none of mine, anyway) is going to change hands at any bookmakers over this one, but I'm guessing that the winner of the recently announced Best Of The Booker will come from the last 10 years or so, by the same reasoning that dictates I always predict that the winner of the "best album ever" polls that people like Q magazine and Channel 4 run will come from the same period. In fact, since it's usually OK Computer, I now need to extend that to 11 years, but you get the general idea. Which is basically that Joe Public has a short and selective memory. Start involving the great unwashed in these polls and you tend to end up with the results you deserve, if you follow me. So it'll probably be Life of Pi or something.

John Walsh's musings on the same subject prompt me to offer a few Booker-related observations. If you're in any way interested may I suggest you open this full list of Booker nominees and winners in a new window.

  • Booker winners I've read: Penelope Fitzgerald's Offshore (1979 - good, very short), Kingsley Amis's The Old Devils (1986 - excellent - his best book after Lucky Jim), Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger (1987 - not her best book, but pretty good, with some spicy incest action thrown in at one point), Peter Carey's Oscar And Lucinda (1988 - a bit of an ordeal, to be honest), Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient (1992 - very good, and the film adaptation featured Kristin Scott Thomas getting her kit off, for which I'm profoundly grateful), James Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late (1994 - good, but written in a pretty chewy Scottish vernacular, so not easy to read), Pat Barker's The Ghost Road (1995 - probably the weakest of the Regeneration trilogy, but you should read all three), Graham Swift's Last Orders (1996 - good, but not as good as Waterland), Ian McEwan's Amsterdam (1998 - oddly, the weakest thing he's ever written) and JM Coetzee's Disgrace (1999 - excellent).
  • I've never read a complete shortlist - since the shortlist was standardised at six I've managed half of it a few times; 1984, 1988, 1989, 1999 and 2001. Note that this doesn't mean that I read the books in the year they were nominated (I was only 14 in 1984, in my defence), just at some point since.
  • The only years where I've not read a single book on the shortlist are 1969, 1970, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1990, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The latter half of that list is a reflection of the fact that I generally shop for books in second-hand and charity shops these days (a reflection of my gradually turning into Norbert Colon in my old age) - it takes a while for the recently published ones to filter through onto the shelves.
  • Shortlisted books which didn't win, but should have (in my opinion): Graham Swift's brilliant Waterland in 1983, Jim Crace's Quarantine in 1997 and Matthew Kneale's English Passengers in 2000.


The Black Rabbit said...

I recently wrote a book.
A book about chickens.

It was shortlisted for the:


(read the above out loud, doing an impression of a chicken, and you may get that verbal joke...)

electrichalibut said...

No, I get it. Eggsellent.