Monday, May 12, 2008

Six of the Best

The shortlist for the Best of Booker has been announced - you'll remember that this is part of the celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the Booker Prize.

The six books shortlisted by the judges (biographer Victoria Glendinning, broadcaster Mariella Frostrup and John Mullan, professor of English at the University of London) are :
The Ghost Road - Pat Barker (1995)

Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey (1988)

Disgrace - JM Coetzee (1999)

The Siege of Krishnapur - JG Farrell (1973)

The Conservationist - Nadine Gordimer(1974)

Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (1981)
Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian analyses the list :
... five deal more or less directly with postcolonial experience, and three are historical novels. The authors span four continents: Barker and Farrell were born in England, Coetzee and Gordimer in South Africa, Carey in Australia and Rushdie in India - although Farrell spent much of his life in Ireland, Rushdie settled in Britain, and Carey moved to the US.

The shortlist also represents a senior generation of writers: four were born in the 1940s, one in the 1930s and one in the 1920s. While JG Farrell died in a fishing accident in 1979, the rest are very much with us.
The winner will be chosen by the public and you can vote on the website.

You can, though, in the end see such a list as just a bit of fun, an enjoyable bit of bookish silliness, because ultimately "best" is impossible to judge. (The Literary Saloon calls the contest "ridiculous".) Of course, as Sam Jordison points out on the Guardian blog, healthy scepticism is the default.

Of the six listed novels, I haven't read Farrell's or Gordimer's (though the latter I have in TBR limbo - think I bought it from Skoob a decade or two ago).

All the others are novels I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Salman Rushdie is the bookie's favourite (William Hill offers odds of 6/4) and I'd be perfectly content to see him win again (he also won the Booker of Bookers 15 years ago) as he did rather change the literary landscape. But I think I'm voting for Peter Carey because Oscar and Lucinda is a favourite to be reread and reread again, and I don't think I have the energy in this lifetime to revisit Midnight's Children.

John Mullan makes and interesting point :
All three of us felt that quite a lot of really good novelists have won, but not for their best book. Lucky the novelist who won for his or her best book, like Coetzee. If Ian McEwan's Atonement had won the Booker it would have had a great chance, but he won with Amsterdam. And it's a pity that Margaret Atwood won for The Blind Assassin.
I disagree with him about Coetzee, because I think Waiting for the Barbarians is a much stronger novel. But he's spot on about McEwan, and Atwood should have won for The Handmaid's Tale.

The overall winner of The Best of the Booker will be announced as part of the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre on 10 July 2008.

Postscript :

Reading Copy, the AbeBooks blog conducted a reader's poll and found the favourites (with 845 responses) to be :
1) Life of Pi by Yann Martel (11.7%)
2) Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (11.4%)
3) The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (8.6%)
4) The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (8.1%)
5) The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (7.2%)
6) Possession by AS Byatt (5.8%)
7) Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (5.5%)
8) The Bone People by Keri Hulme (5.2%)
9) The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (4.6%)
10) The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (3.2%)
Very different, huh?


Second Hand Books from a Private Library said...

Hi Sharon,

I hope you will forgive me for using your comment box to plug the sale of books from my private collection.

"As I am moving abroad, I have decided to put some of the books from my personal library on sale. More new books will be added on a rolling basis as I go through my library. This is my idea of an online book flea-market. :). You can check it out at or 2nd hyphen hand hyphen bookmarket dot blogspot dot com (for those who can't see the http link). Please email to place your orders."

Clarissa Lee

bibliobibuli said...

great idea! will keep watching! ... wonder where you're off to?

Second Hand Books from a Private Library said...

The US of A, where I daresay I'll end up accumulating ever more books than now

Corinne said...

Sharon -

I came across your blog while searching for children's literature events happening in Malaysia and just thought I would say hello. I'm with which is a website which promotes multi-cultural children's literature from Pacific Rim and South Asia countries. We are always interested in hearing about events happening in your country with respect to children's literature! Feel free to email me if you know of something exciting we can share with our readers. I noticed that your links section had some events listed so I will investigate that further.

Anonymous said...

Another one moving. I feel like moving myself after I saw the much-vaunted opposition behaving like monkeys on TV. What hope is there left for the country LOL :)

Corinne if you're still around here Borders has a children's reading session weekends (or at least had last time I checked.)

bibliobibuli said...

anon - corinne is from across the world!

corinne - dropped you an email. thanks for the link to your site, it is very useful

James Abela said...

I know its list season, but this is a list that became popular on Digg. 100 books for men! Although I am not sure why women wouldn't also enjoy them...

kamal s said...

WHAT? No Life of Pi? Or even The Blind Assassin? Or The English Patient??????????

Disgrace made the cut? What were the thinking?

Hi, Sharon! It's been awhile.

Anonymous said...

I believe most of the people will agree with me that for searching a good book like all the award winning nor good children books could only be found in one store - Kinokuniya. Until today I can't really find any good read from our Malaysia so called "leading" English bookstore - MPH. Most of the books arrangement like no arrangement. The range they offered can't even match with a foreign bookstore? Gosh! Worst thing is sometime they do not give you choice at all. For some author you could find else where for alternative version. In MPH they only offered one cover, if you want the other cover please proceed to others bookstore cause in MPH it will take longer time to obtain the books. I am glad that Kinokuniya had the variety range of books and also the kind of books they offered really promoting a good reading culture. I think MPH is like a night market...:>