Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Enright's Gathering Pips Pip

Anne Enright's novel won this year's Booker. I confess I'm feeling miserable.

(I sympathise with Sam Jordison's sentiments on the Guardian blog this morning:
Oh shit!)
This is not to say that the book isn't in many senses a worthy winner. It's well-written, honest and brave, and I very much like the way it draws on the way memory works. (I have a lot more to say about it, but you'll have to wait for Sunday's review!)

Sadly, I don't think that this is a novel that most readers in Malaysia will enjoy or find easy to relate to (with the exception of folks like Eric and Leon!) unlike other titles on the shortlist (especially Mr. Pip and Animal's People which I predict will do very well here).

Perhaps they will buy The Gathering because winning the Booker is an endorsement of quality and then find it depressing, dark and difficult and perhaps be further alienated by this thing called "literature".

(Please do feel free to prove me wrong, however.)

Jordison reckons that the choice is :
... the safe option. It's a vote for familiar themes that are close to home (especially if you're in the middle-aged middle classes like most Booker judges inevitably will be), and for skilful, but never really daring writing. ...The Gathering is nothing like as unsettling as Darkmans, as passionate as Animal's People as or even as endearing as Mister Pip. And isn't as funny as any of them either.
In the Independent, Chair of the judges, Howard Davison says of the judging process:
We found it a very powerful, uncomfortable and even at times, angry book. It's an unflinching look at a grieving family in tough and striking language. We think she's an impressive novelist. We expect to hear a lot more from her. ... The book is very tightly structured. It's seen through the dyspeptic vision of the central character. She's a woman at a difficult moment in her life.
I'm interested to hear that when the judges drew up the long list of 13 books, they:
.. probably did not expect that to be the winner, but it came through very strongly on re-readings.
because I found that I like the book much better too on second-reading when I could appreciate how it had been put together and where it was going. But should we need to read a book a second time to really get the best from it?

Incidentally, it's interesting to note that all the publicity for the books hasn't translated into great sales in Britain:
On Chesil Beach is far outselling the other books on the shortlist combined ... Sales figures of the other books, by contrast, exemplify the tough climate for literary fiction in the marketplace - and Enright's book has so far shifted just 3,253 copies. The latest figures from Nielsen BookScan show that the McEwan has sold a total of 120,362; Nicola Barker's Darkmans, 11,097; Mister Pip, 5,170; Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist 4,425, and Indra Sinha's Animal's People 2,589.
(Top pic from the Guardian. Bottom pic from the Telegraph shows the shortlisted authors at the Guildhall last night. Left to right - Nichole Barker, Mohsin Hamid , Indra Sinha, Anne Enright and Ian McEwan.)

7 comments:

animah said...

Well I knew it wasn't going to be my two. The Reluctant Fundamentalist isn't good enough, and Darkmans is too daring.

KayKay said...

Your comments say it all, Sharon:

-"Perhaps they will buy The Gathering because winning the Booker is an endorsement of quality and then find it depressing, dark and difficult and perhaps be further alienated by this thing called "literature"

Yet another reason (as if there weren't many already)to invalidate the Prize's claim as a yardstick for quality writing and yet another reason for you to finally, I hope,hop off the Booker wagon that practically make your nipples go stiff with arousal every year right about the time the long lists are announced.

It's an extremely subjective judging process that, of late, seems to equate "good" writing to "difficult" and "depressing" writing? And seeks to alienate further people like myself who would LIKE to dip their toes in literary waters but get put off by its "frigidity" of prose.

-"unflinching look at a grieving family in tough and striking language".

Yup,I can imagine the long queues at Kino to snatch this one off the shelves. I'll come early.

-"I found that I like the book much better too on second-reading when I could appreciate how it had been put together and where it was going. But should we need to read a book a second time to really get the best from it?"

You said it, girl.
It's a book, not a fucking CD. With the wealth of tomes on our ever expanding to-read list to plough through, who's got the time for second go-arounds? You get ONE attempt to satisfy me, after which I seek out others to get my reading rocks off. Life is short.

The Booker lost me around the time the dazzling literary ventriloquism of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas was passed over in favour of a gay romp in Thatcher era England (Ok,Ok haven't read In The Line Of Beauty, so feel free to fuck me over for that unqualified comment)

bibliobibuli said...

glad you agree, kaykay

"yet another reason for you to finally, I hope,hop off the Booker wagon that practically make your nipples go stiff with arousal every year right about the time the long lists are announced."

that's a very demeaning and unsavoury image! i have discovered a lot of good stuff on the longlist and shortlist and while i would have preferred more likeable book to win, the writing is admirable

but this is one we should not read in our book club. i'd recommend "mr.pip" and "animal's people" and certainly some of the longlisted titles. (we're certainly doing "the gift of rain")

bibliobibuli said...

and one more thing, i have really enjoyed the dialogue about these books in the press, on blogs, bulletin boards ... there is a buzz about the booker, and i shall of course try the same mad dash to get all the books read next year. i will probably also get angry, think wrong decisions made ... but to me that's also part of the fun of it!

KayKay said...

Any analogies linking book to body lust is severely regretted and you have my apologies:-)

Read the guardian blog and apparently Enright's back catalogue of writing was also a condideration in awarding her the prize. What tosh! It's like Scorsese getting the Best Director nod for the The Departed but was in actual fact belatedly recognised for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

Needless to say, been awhile since I've tuned in to the Oscars...

KayKay said...

"condideration" ???? Remind me not to write before lunch...

bibliobibuli said...

you're right, back catalogue should not be a consideration ... a booker book must stand or fall on its own merit ...