Friday, 15 October 2010

A comment on the Booker Prize 2010

[Edited to include the year in the title, to avoid confusion with any other years.]

I probably should have commented on the Booker Prize before now. I suppose it's a given that a writer will have an opinion about this prize. But I'm not sure I do; it usually passes me by. I did comment when the longlist was announced, but since then.... meh!

Some of the problem is that I am predominently a short story writer, so I am therefore more interested in prizes for short stories, and there are some very big prizes that are starting to come to the fore. I like to read these stories worth £5000, £10,000 and £35,000 to see where I'm lacking. Mostly, I have figured out - and this applies to any novel I might write - my stories are not big enough, they do not encompass the large political issues of the day. A lot of the time, they are very small, personal stories. Although I have many opinions, I don't think I'd be able to express them in fiction form.

Another problem is the way I chose to read novels - usually by the look of the cover, the title or, as with one book I bought recently, something striking in the blurb. The blurb of the book I bought, The Other Hand by Chris Cleave, stated that they didn't want to ruin the story so I'd have to buy the book and please could I not tell my friends the ending so they'd have to read it for themselves. So I did buy it. Admittedly, the novel didn't warrant such extraordinary claims - it was a good story, and a good ending, but nothing of the magical element I'd expected. Although, I bet the marketing team were damn pleased with themselves for coming up with that angle!!

Anyway, back to my point on the way I chose to read novels - I do not buy books that have large prizes bestowed upon them; I am more likely to avoid them. Not consciously, not seeing the Booker display in a bookshop and running screaming in the opposite direction. I like to browse and look for something a little out of the ordinary. Big books with big prizes seem sometimes out of my league, I suppose. And mostly, when I feel a book is out of my league - if I do persuade myself to read it - I want it to be mindblowing, absolutely so astounding that the story haunts me for the rest of my life.

Not a lot of books do that though...

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