Meet the new best (same as the old best)

July 10, 2008 at 10:20 pm Leave a comment

Midnight’s Children by Sir Salman Rushdie has been voted the Booker of Bookers.

“When voting closed at midday on 8 July over 7800 people had voted (online and SMS) for the six shortlisted titles, with 36% voting for Midnight’s Children. Votes flooded in from across the world with 37% of online votes coming from the UK, followed by 27% from North America.”

But does anyone care? The discussion of the shortlisted titles on Newsnight Review last Friday was greeted by the sound of tumbleweed blowing across their website – as it failed to elicit a single comment.

I blame the uninspiring shortlist. It was always a recipe for disaster having a half-and-half process where judges pick the shortlist for the public to vote on. Whether consciously or not, I believe the judges were wary of shortlisting those books that they know to be popular, and which might therefore walk away with the vote. Leaving strong, and popular contenders like The Remains of the Day (which would have had my vote) and Possession off the shortlist cleared the way for a re-coronation of Midnight’s Children.

Adam Mars-Jones (whose novel Pilcrow ought to be on the longlist for this year’s prize when it is announced on July 29th) suggested that
what would be much more interesting would be to look at the books that never won the Booker but that did extremely well nevertheless. That would be wryer and less self-righteous.
I agree, and a number of other bloggers have been doing just that in their search for ‘The Best of the Rest of the Booker‘ which was won by David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.

For the record, of the ones I’ve read so far (79 of the 225 shortlisted titles) my favourite runners-up are:

Anthony Burgess – Earthly Powers
JG Ballard – Empire of the Sun
Julian Barnes – Flaubert’s Parrot
Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
Barry Unsworth – Morality Play
Jim Crace – Quarantine
Colm Tóibín – The Blackwater Lightship
David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas
Nicola Barker – Darkmans

Meanwhile, I wonder if the judges of this year’s prize saw the debate on BBC2’s The Culture Show, during which one member of the public asked:

“Why do they keep giving the Booker Prize to all these dismal books?
Life is tough enough without us having to read all this doom and gloom.”

Dear Booker Judges,

Could you find something uplifting for us to read this year?

Thank you,

Jo Public.

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Entry filed under: Booker Prize, bookers, books, culture, newsnight, Rushdie, salman.

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