xvideos - porn videos

The Man Booker Prize 2008

If there was ever a time to sit down and reflect on the good old days then that time is now. Those good old days, of course, pertain to the Man Booker Prize in the days before there was such a thing as the 21st Century. Is it any wonder that, when the Best Of The Booker public vote celebrated forty years of the prize, none of the shortlisted six knew what the Millenium Bug was? J.M Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999) seems a definite cut-off point. (In concession, if a panel hadn’t made that shortlist, Life Of Pi (2002) would no doubt have won the public vote.)

This year winner, after much ruby anniversary celebrations, the Man Booker Prize 2008 has gone to The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Fresh off the longlist announcement, I recall being happy with it. A nice jaunty little novel to kickstart the longlist before moving onto the heavier stuff.  Two weeks later and it had faded. Now, two months on, I can barely remember a thing about it. It’s that sort of book.

My feelings are that, overall, this year will go down as one of the worst years in Booker history, if not the worst. Having enjoyed the experience of reading the longlist (or as much of it as possible) in recent years, this is the first year where I’ve started most of the books and finished only four.  And it was only for an early sense of completion that I bothered to push past the opening of Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44. After John Berger’s epistolary From A To X failed to deliver, Mohammed Hanif’s A Case Of Exploding Mangoes imploded, and Michelle de Kretser’s The Lost Dog was found sniffing its own arse, I lost all faith in this year’s Booker delivering on the best Commonwealth books of the year.

Maybe it’s just me overreacting, as a reader, but I don’t think so. There are far too many marching in step on this one. When the longlist was announced on 29th July, many were surprised on the Man Booker discussion forum. Not at what was there, but what hadn’t made the cut. For example, where were, amongst many others, the following?

  • The Wasted Vigil, Nadeem Aslam
  • His Illegal Self, Peter Carey
  • Sputnik Caledonia, Andrew Crumey
  • The Imposter, Damon Galgut
  • The Cellist Of Sarajevo, Steve Galloway
  • The Spare Room, Helen Garner
  • Keiron Smith, Boy, James Kelman
  • Pilcrow, Adam Mars-Jones
  • Trauma, Patrick McGrath
  • The Truth Commissioner, David Park
  • Breath, Tim Winton
  • Carpentaria, Alexis Wright

The longlist was, in the opinion of many observers on the Booker forum, mostly substandard. The blame for this can only fall to the judging panel. Returning to those good old days, Booker judging panels have been graced by such eminent names as Saul Bellow, George Steiner, and Malcolm Bradbury. This year’s panel was chaired by Michael Portillo, who said he didn’t read all of the books; Hardeep Singh-Kohli, to whom Harry Potter is  great literature; and Louise Doughty, who appears to have more than one bee in her bonnet.

The first, commenting on the shortlist:

“Ignore the moaners and vested-interest commentators who have read a fraction of what we have this year but still feel entitled to bellow at us about just how wrong we are.”

Since the longlist is just a patchwork of opinions from a select panel, does it make their choices any more worthy? I don’t think so. Even if they have read the majority, if not all, of the submitted titles, most of them won’t shine and can be readily discarded. Not to forget either that many people will have read a mixture of eligible titles – some longlisted, some not – and are quite within their rights to call a poor year when they see it.

The second, even more ridiculous, was her attack on male academics sitting on judging panels:

… such men should not be invited on to judging panels as they “always have their eye on their reputations” and are too concerned with picking a “highbrow” author rather than a readable one. She added that they tended to made [sic] judgements based on “how well the winning book reflected on them”, often choosing the most obscure and self-consciously highbrow novelist, rather than considering the best entry.

…Academics automatically feel [the choice of Booker winner] will reflect on their career,” she said.

Is she serious? Perhaps she’s intent on dragging its prestige down so that one day she’ll win it. If she wants readable she’d be better signing up for Richard & Judy’s Book Club, or casting a vote at the Galaxy Awards. Still, what should we expect from the author of a how to write a book by numbers book?

In response to her ridiculous comments, Professor John Sutherland, in a moment of rare clarity (this is the guy, after all, who thought Salman Rushdie would win, reneging on a promise to curry his proof and eat it), said:

…that Doughty’s comments were unfair: “if she said it, ‘male academics’ is as offensive as it would be to say too many ‘female novelists’ are chosen as panellists. I don’t, of course, believe that they are, or that female novelists can be lumped together any more than male academics can.”

With the year arguably the worst in Booker history and the judging panel suffering a drought of academics, it only illustrates that Doughty’s opinions are served best with a pinch of salt. The Booker should strive to reward, in the opinion of the panel, the best book that the Commonwealth has to offer for that year. It should strive to recognise a book that can compete with the likes of Midnight’s Children to some day be the best of the Booker. Not ephemera.

Congratulations to Mr. Adiga.

Here are some opinons on The White Tiger from around the blogosphere.

October 15, 2008

9 responses to The Man Booker Prize 2008

  1. Jonathan said:

    Ouch.

    But these do seem like valid criticisms. The noises emanating from the Booker panel this year strongly suggest they wanted to take the prize in a middle-brow, Richard & Judy direction.

    Sadly, I worry that the organisers selected the judging panel with exactly that purpose in mind…

  2. jem said:

    A well worded nail in this years coffin!

    I agree about the lasting impact of ‘The White Tiger’ – last year ‘The Gathering’ was the first title I read and memories of it still stood strong by the time it won. This year ‘The White Tiger’ is remembered as that ok, easy Indian read I started with.

    Thanks for your list of should have beens – thats the selection I would have preferred to spent my summer with.

    I’m all for encouraging the masses to read but I don’t think the Booker needs to dumb down to do that. There are other good ‘accessible’ prizes and selections to encourage reluctant readers. And I thought the Booker was meant to judge quality literature.

  3. I couldn’t put it better. This is an excellent post that touches on all that made this a poor showing for the Booker.

  4. John Self said:

    Yes, consider this my signature on your petition, Stewart!

    The list of shouldabeens is impressive and really makes me despair at the selection the judges did come up with. I look forward to reading the likes of The Wasted Vigil and Kieron Smith, Boy and feeling better – and worse!

  5. BookCrazy said:

    I think any award that tries to pick out the best fiction in the year will fail miserably, endlessly. Criticizing the Booker or Adiga is not the answer to that. Because an award meets our subjective criterias, our choices, it is good or else not?

    I strongly believe that Adiga’s book deserves to be read for its central idea, and it only helps if that idea is conveyed in a gripping easy-read novel. And I also believe that the very idea that the format of Booker can ever pick the actual best is nothing but a joke.

    In all the criticism of Booker, I am happy Adiga will benefit and write more. Better? Let the time speak.

  6. The very concept of a best book is a nonsense, what’s interesting is not so much the winner as the list itself, which hopefully flags authors of skill and ambition of whom we might not otherwise be aware.

    The thing is though, although there is no best book, if you don’t look for the best book you won’t even find a list of great books, and that may be where they fell down this year. You will always fail to pick the best book, but in trying you are likely to pick a range of great books, any one of which might be a particular reader’s best.

    Adiga’s novel clearly has its defenders, the problem seems to me not so much the winner, as the whole process this year. The emphasis on readability, being a page turner, geographical distribution, what do any of these things have to do with being a great book?

    My suspicion is that there is a desire, probably at a higher level than the judges themselves, to make the Booker more accessible. I think that’s an error, but if that is there it would influence the choice of judges and so the choice of novels.

    Accessibility be buggered, choose on quality and sometimes it will be accessible and sometimes it won’t but if it isn’t it should at least be inaccessible for good reason. Must everything be accessible in any event?

    Besides, if a work is inaccessible, but great, then a Booker listing tells those of us who might care that it’s worth the effort, that the inaccessability does not denote a confusion of concept or overwrought language but merely difficulty. Inaccessibility is only a problem if you then go to the trouble of accessing the work anyway, and it didn’t merit your efforts. It’s not per se a bad thing.

  7. Stewart said:

    The noises emanating from the Booker panel this year strongly suggest they wanted to take the prize in a middle-brow, Richard & Judy direction.

    Jonathan, the only difference this year is that Richard & Judy get shown on television.

    And I thought the Booker was meant to judge quality literature.

    Jem, I think they did judge quality literature this year. They judged it guilty of not being readable enough. Baffling, that!

    Thanks, Trevor and John Self.

    I think any award that tries to pick out the best fiction in the year will fail miserably, endlessly. Criticizing the Booker or Adiga is not the answer to that. Because an award meets our subjective criterias, our choices, it is good or else not?

    BookCrazy, I don’t think there’s any reason to criticise Adiga. He wrote a book, he didn’t pick it for the Booker. You would think that a panel of five, while there’s going to be disagreements, could manage to pick out a high percentage of the year’s best in a longlist of thirteen. Instead they’ve went for “geographical balance” and “readability”, which is just crazy. A book coming from India, Australia, or South Africa is no better than one coming from Ireland, Canada, or the United Kingdom, by virtue of where it came from. So the geographical balance is not the right way to go to judge the best book of the year.

    Similarly, readability. It may be that The White Tiger is more readable than, say, Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland (and I thought it was, although I preferred the latter). But, as a judge, looking for the best of the year, where you are duty bound to give books a second and third reading, I would expect the better books to present themselves, not just in the way they are written, but in how they open up new doors with each reading. I don’t think The White Tiger is such a book. Maybe I am wrong, but I doubt I’ll be reading it again to find out what new doors it opens.

  8. KevinfromCanada said:

    An excellent analysis, Stewart, and you can put my name beside John and Trevors. Thanks in particular for the list of books that didn’t make the longlist — when you look at it, you realize that it would make for an interesting contest in itself. (I think I’d opt for The Imposter — it is definitely a better book than The White Tiger.)

    I have no problem with a difference of opinion over what is the “best” book, since that seems to me to be inevitable. I do think that when you look at past shortlists, this jury did a particularly bad job in choosing the 13 books from which it eventually chose the winner. I have nothing against the author of the winning book — I do think the jury was lazy in its reading.

  9. sidman said:

    Well, The white tiger, is a shoddy book – the men who judged it – wow some cheif chef was the cheif judge or something – white tiger is not even journalism – it is just a carless, random cluth of sentencesa flashed acroos to magnify the point that india is a corrupt, baselss, immature, and indecet country. And this is the catch – you slam india here and there, and you have lapful of prizes. The worst thing is that no longer do they judge liteartue by its language – but by the issues it raises. Well – understand one thing all ten adigas or ten antia desais (both booker crowned) will not make one Vikram Seth – and the foolish booker committes have ignored him altogather. Where is Marin Amis, by the way.
    Booker is give to readable slush- this is how it is, and people – they never had the courage, or the time to judge things for themselves. So the mediocrity of booker prize will continue to flourish..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

9 responses to The Man Booker Prize 2008

  1. Jonathan said:

    Ouch.

    But these do seem like valid criticisms. The noises emanating from the Booker panel this year strongly suggest they wanted to take the prize in a middle-brow, Richard & Judy direction.

    Sadly, I worry that the organisers selected the judging panel with exactly that purpose in mind…

  2. jem said:

    A well worded nail in this years coffin!

    I agree about the lasting impact of ‘The White Tiger’ – last year ‘The Gathering’ was the first title I read and memories of it still stood strong by the time it won. This year ‘The White Tiger’ is remembered as that ok, easy Indian read I started with.

    Thanks for your list of should have beens – thats the selection I would have preferred to spent my summer with.

    I’m all for encouraging the masses to read but I don’t think the Booker needs to dumb down to do that. There are other good ‘accessible’ prizes and selections to encourage reluctant readers. And I thought the Booker was meant to judge quality literature.

  3. I couldn’t put it better. This is an excellent post that touches on all that made this a poor showing for the Booker.

  4. John Self said:

    Yes, consider this my signature on your petition, Stewart!

    The list of shouldabeens is impressive and really makes me despair at the selection the judges did come up with. I look forward to reading the likes of The Wasted Vigil and Kieron Smith, Boy and feeling better – and worse!

  5. BookCrazy said:

    I think any award that tries to pick out the best fiction in the year will fail miserably, endlessly. Criticizing the Booker or Adiga is not the answer to that. Because an award meets our subjective criterias, our choices, it is good or else not?

    I strongly believe that Adiga’s book deserves to be read for its central idea, and it only helps if that idea is conveyed in a gripping easy-read novel. And I also believe that the very idea that the format of Booker can ever pick the actual best is nothing but a joke.

    In all the criticism of Booker, I am happy Adiga will benefit and write more. Better? Let the time speak.

  6. The very concept of a best book is a nonsense, what’s interesting is not so much the winner as the list itself, which hopefully flags authors of skill and ambition of whom we might not otherwise be aware.

    The thing is though, although there is no best book, if you don’t look for the best book you won’t even find a list of great books, and that may be where they fell down this year. You will always fail to pick the best book, but in trying you are likely to pick a range of great books, any one of which might be a particular reader’s best.

    Adiga’s novel clearly has its defenders, the problem seems to me not so much the winner, as the whole process this year. The emphasis on readability, being a page turner, geographical distribution, what do any of these things have to do with being a great book?

    My suspicion is that there is a desire, probably at a higher level than the judges themselves, to make the Booker more accessible. I think that’s an error, but if that is there it would influence the choice of judges and so the choice of novels.

    Accessibility be buggered, choose on quality and sometimes it will be accessible and sometimes it won’t but if it isn’t it should at least be inaccessible for good reason. Must everything be accessible in any event?

    Besides, if a work is inaccessible, but great, then a Booker listing tells those of us who might care that it’s worth the effort, that the inaccessability does not denote a confusion of concept or overwrought language but merely difficulty. Inaccessibility is only a problem if you then go to the trouble of accessing the work anyway, and it didn’t merit your efforts. It’s not per se a bad thing.

  7. Stewart said:

    The noises emanating from the Booker panel this year strongly suggest they wanted to take the prize in a middle-brow, Richard & Judy direction.

    Jonathan, the only difference this year is that Richard & Judy get shown on television.

    And I thought the Booker was meant to judge quality literature.

    Jem, I think they did judge quality literature this year. They judged it guilty of not being readable enough. Baffling, that!

    Thanks, Trevor and John Self.

    I think any award that tries to pick out the best fiction in the year will fail miserably, endlessly. Criticizing the Booker or Adiga is not the answer to that. Because an award meets our subjective criterias, our choices, it is good or else not?

    BookCrazy, I don’t think there’s any reason to criticise Adiga. He wrote a book, he didn’t pick it for the Booker. You would think that a panel of five, while there’s going to be disagreements, could manage to pick out a high percentage of the year’s best in a longlist of thirteen. Instead they’ve went for “geographical balance” and “readability”, which is just crazy. A book coming from India, Australia, or South Africa is no better than one coming from Ireland, Canada, or the United Kingdom, by virtue of where it came from. So the geographical balance is not the right way to go to judge the best book of the year.

    Similarly, readability. It may be that The White Tiger is more readable than, say, Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland (and I thought it was, although I preferred the latter). But, as a judge, looking for the best of the year, where you are duty bound to give books a second and third reading, I would expect the better books to present themselves, not just in the way they are written, but in how they open up new doors with each reading. I don’t think The White Tiger is such a book. Maybe I am wrong, but I doubt I’ll be reading it again to find out what new doors it opens.

  8. KevinfromCanada said:

    An excellent analysis, Stewart, and you can put my name beside John and Trevors. Thanks in particular for the list of books that didn’t make the longlist — when you look at it, you realize that it would make for an interesting contest in itself. (I think I’d opt for The Imposter — it is definitely a better book than The White Tiger.)

    I have no problem with a difference of opinion over what is the “best” book, since that seems to me to be inevitable. I do think that when you look at past shortlists, this jury did a particularly bad job in choosing the 13 books from which it eventually chose the winner. I have nothing against the author of the winning book — I do think the jury was lazy in its reading.

  9. sidman said:

    Well, The white tiger, is a shoddy book – the men who judged it – wow some cheif chef was the cheif judge or something – white tiger is not even journalism – it is just a carless, random cluth of sentencesa flashed acroos to magnify the point that india is a corrupt, baselss, immature, and indecet country. And this is the catch – you slam india here and there, and you have lapful of prizes. The worst thing is that no longer do they judge liteartue by its language – but by the issues it raises. Well – understand one thing all ten adigas or ten antia desais (both booker crowned) will not make one Vikram Seth – and the foolish booker committes have ignored him altogather. Where is Marin Amis, by the way.
    Booker is give to readable slush- this is how it is, and people – they never had the courage, or the time to judge things for themselves. So the mediocrity of booker prize will continue to flourish..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jojobet sekabet verabet