Wednesday, August 22, 2007

questionable aside

As I’m nearing the end of What Was Lost, and considering the review I will write I keep coming back to thoughts about prize nominated novels. I wonder whether I have higher expectations of a book because I have been told it has been longlisted. That it has been selected by a panel of judges, who I assume know their fiction, out of 110 other nominated novels. Surely that’s got to have filtered out a lot of rubbish? Surely these 13 should be very good books? the best of their kind?

Am I overly harsh in my assessment of these books because of my high expectations? If I stumbled across one in a bargain bin, or a charity shop shelf, knowing nothing of its pedigree, brought it home and read it, would my verdict be different?

I’ve also been pondering the overlap between prizes. What Was Lost was longlisted for the Orange Prize and now for the Booker. From this years Orange longlist only one other made it to the Booker longlist (that being Carry Me Down which popped up last year). Were no other Orange listers good enough to make the Booker grade? And what of the novels on the Booker longlist by women who didn’t get a mention on the Orange list? does the Orange list set its sights lower? or seek something different from its novels? something more inherently womanly? or is the Booker still trying to be a step more high-brow that other literary prizes?

All idle speculation and no answers. Time to get back to the reading.

2 comments:

John said...

All interesting questions. I certainly found that a few books on the longlist were ones that I was surprised to see there (particularly as I'd read others that I thought were better during the year, and which weren't longlisted). As you may know from my blog, What Was Lost is one of those.

On the other hand there are other books I wouldn't have considered that have turned out to be among my favourites of the year, like Animal's People. So I suppose it cuts both ways.

The answer really - for this as well as the Booker/Orange overlap point - is that we all have different tastes, and no two sets of judges, or judges and reader, will enjoy exactly the same things.

With What Was Lost I wonder if they might have put it in because it's (a) pretty good but (b) very accessible, to deflect charges of elitism? Idle speculation of course, but it did cross my mind.

jem said...

Very valid point about different tastes.

As for the inclusion of What Was Lost on accessibility - which seems a fair possibility - another question arises. I wonder if the Booker judges consciously try to include a range of types of book, or whether its just their favourites.

What Was Lost is reminding me of Black Swan Green a bit, and that seemed like an accessible one for last years list.