Sunday, September 13, 2009

Anglocentric Nostalgia for the Past?

What, then, of the 2009 shortlist? At first glance, it breaths the spirit of the 1970s. Fiercely English, it is strongly inclined to the historical narrative. Every one of these books explores the past in some form.

Taking few risks, it offers JM Coetzee and AS Byatt the prospect of a return visit to the winner's podium. In a recession, it's a list that will transmit a warm glow of reassurance into the troubled breasts of nervous UK booksellers. God knows what they will make of it in Beijing or Kuala Lumpur.

Occasionally, as it has every right to do, the prize turns its back on posterity. This year, Booker is in denial, big time.
Robert McCrum weighs up this year's Booker shortlist in The Observer, and it's very nice of him to consider what we think here in KL, isn't it? (I think we just shrug and say "Fine, just guarantee us some quality reading." You all agree?)

Tim Adams in the same paper makes a very good case for the Booker shortlist this year being symptomatic of the general British desire to escape into the past.

Fiction editor at The Telegraph, Lorna Bradbury, is very happy with the selection:
There hasn’t been a Man Booker shortlist to match this one since 2005, when the shortlisted novelists Kazuo Ishiguro and Zadie Smith went on to split the judges so irrevocably that John Banville came out the ultimate winner. ... If the longlist contained the requisite number of outsiders and eccentrics, such as James Lever’s comic novel narrated by Cheeta the Chimp, the shortlist concentrates on quality and seriousness
In an interesting piece at The Irish Times, Fintan O'Toole, reckons that Irish authors William Trevor, Ed O’Loughlin and Colm Tóibín didn't make the cut this year because :
The advance word had hinted at a feeling that there have been quite enough Irish winners for the moment, thank you. .... (And also because) Irishness is losing its gloss.
So much can be read into a shortlist!


Kadek Kris said...

Sharon, you should supply the Shortlist so we can all um and ah and jump to conclusions too!

;-) Kadek

Leon Wing said...

Got all of the shortlist except The Glass Room (hardback too expensive, not 20% off); read 3; rooting for Byatt!

bibliobibuli said...

Kadek - the orig post w the list just a few back on the main page - but now will link to it.

i still only have Wolf Hall, Leon. wasn't able to make a trip to town to find the others. don't have the money this time round to buy the whole lot anyway. did though find "Me Cheeta" which was on the longlist at Bookxcess for RM19.90!

bibliobibuli said...

forwarding comments from my facebook page :

Issie Ocat
thnks Sharon...its connected at a higher end to something I wrote last night...i am just impressed at how u managed to write so succinctly in relatively very few sentences...

Wena Poon
"Irishness is losing its gloss"??? When did nationality become a fad, I ask as I walk past American bookstores with dozens of attractive fiction covers all about the Middle East. For all its high mindedness, the publishing and prize world seems as faddish as the couture industry. At least the fashion world is honest about its superficiality!