Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Announcing the Not the Booker prize prize
The judges of Britain's most prestigious literary award pick the wrong book far too often. But who could be trusted to make a better choice? Why, the readers of this blog, of course

Posted by Sam Jordison Wednesday 29 July 2009,

Left - the coveted Not the Booker prize prize trophy

The Booker Prize is a fantastic way to get people talking about books, to promote previously unknown authors and to reward some quality books. Many of the past winners have been stone-cold classics and have enjoyed a much longer shelf life thanks to the prize. But like any important national institution, it also comes in for a lot of stick … Especially on the internet.
These criticisms fall into three main camps:

1) Your favourite book didn't win. This is the most egregious error the judges make, and they make it again and again. Worse still, instead of your favourite book, they select one that is at best mediocre and at worst thoroughly dull. What's wrong with them?

2) The books are always about post-colonial guilt, Irish poverty or English middle-class Islingtonians having Terribly Important Thoughts about their boring love lives … Where's the SF? Is that not literature? Where's the danger? Where's the challenge? Surely they are missing something.

3) The panel are unrepresentative. Who are these people? Who chooses them? Why should, say, James Naughtie be judging this year's prize? Are they really better judges than you or I?
Of course, it's only right that the Booker panels should tread on some toes when judging something as subjective as literature. Disagreeing with them is part of the fun, after all. Having read through a good proportion of the past winners now, I'd also say that on the whole, the Booker judges have managed to choose decent books. Even so, I have some sympathy with these complaints. It's not true that all the books are for and about the chattering classes. But lots of them are. The judging panel is (by its nature) remote and its deliberations mysterious. And much as I enjoy following the Booker, I often find the award itself a huge disappointment. Why didn't Linda Grant win last year? Why wasn't Joseph O'Neill's wonderful Netherland even shortlisted? Why did The Gathering win the year before? Why has Martin Amis never won and only been shortlisted once? Wrong. Bad. Silly. Dull. Absurd. You get the idea.
Read the rest of this entertaining post on Sam Jordison's Guardian blog.

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