Sunday, January 01, 2006

Well, I Told You So

I spotted this today in the Times on Line. Seems publishers can't spot prize-winning manuscripts.

(Well, nothing changes, there, then!)

There are some more Booker Articles on that page, well worth reading. BTW I thought John Banville's The Sea (2005 Winner) to be unadulterated shite. I love good language, but good language TO A PURPOSE and not an example of someone trying to disappear up his own arse. That book was irretrievably dull, almost plotless, with some laughable sections (no I am not going to force myself to re-read it and point them out) and the crudest, most beginnerish witholding of information I have ever seen in a serious book. For the Sea to win The Booker was CRIMINAL. Not too many agreed with me, but Boyd Tomkin did.

On Beacon Hill, New Year's Day

A little while back I wrote an article "The Disease of Competence" arguing that safe and predictable plots, and safe, mainstream writing was being selected over genuine fresh (and sometimes difficult) insights. I then stumbled on "Middle-Mind" by Curtis White who talked about the disturbing way culture was being squeezed top-down, and maybe bottom-up until it was all horribly middling.

I was delighted to hear somone speaking out, and Curtis was good enough to let us have material for 7Q3 and 7Q4.

Not in precisely the same vein, but at least close cousin is the sense I get that novels in the Booker List are less "seriously literary" and more "better general fiction" these days. (OK so The Sea wasn't either, but there y'go.)

There was a very perceptive article by M. K. Chakrabarti in The Boston Review of Books who looked, in particular at "Brick Lane" written by ex Boot Camper Monica Ali. Monica spent 18 months in BC and was an obvious talent. I remember shortlisting a story of hers for a competition only to see what was a streets-clear "winner" place second. That was a classic example of "Disease of Mediocrity" thinking. How often do we see a competition winner and think, "Huh?" especially when there are great stories in the placings or as finalists.

I was so miffed when Monica missed out that I sent the story to my editor at Atlantic Monthly, telling her Monica would be big one day. They didn't bite, but then they turned down Nathan Englander too!

Here is the Boston Review Article.


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