The Man Booker award has been made, and the winner (Hilary Mantel) will no doubt sell a besquillion copies of her historical novel, Wolf Hall. And to that, all I can say is bully for her. I mean no malice, no sour grapes. I can’t imagine anything I write qualifying for a literary award. As it happens, Mantel’s book is much more likely to attract me than many other previous recipients of the Booker. At least it includes some stellar research and a real story.
It’s interesting, is it not, that books like Twilight, and Harry Potter and The da Vinci Code or (let’s get really silly) Fifty Shades of Grey are never in the running for such awards. I wonder how many people religiously buy the prize winners every year and place them on their bookshelves right next to their copies of James Joyce? In Nazi Germany most houses had a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. I wonder how many actually read it?
I can’t help but feel that one of the criteria for selection for prizes like the Booker is density. I was gobsmacked to read that the book favoured to win, Will Self’s Umbrella, was “…a novel with no chapters and few paragraph breaks, and which judges described as both ‘moving and draining'”.
No chapters I can stomach. But few paragraph breaks? Pages of unbroken text? Perhaps, fellow writers, we’re missing something here. Maybe if we ignore all the so-called rules, we’ll win a literary award. Always assuming we can convince an agent, a publisher or an award committee to read our bit of brilliance. It seems to me we have a double standard here. Any ‘ordinary’ book would never get away with it. But say it’s ‘literary fiction’ and it’s open slather. It can be stream of consciousness, no plot, no story, not much grammar. I expect you’d have to spell correctly, though.
Yeah, yeah. I’m a Philistine. I’ve never denied it. I’m also not apologising for my stance. I like books with a story, characters I can connect with. I don’t enjoy the challenge of trying to work out what the hell the book is supposed to be about and I won’t read a book that’s ‘draining’.
What do you think? Please share.