The Booker Prize has been a source of fascination to me for a number of years, and I have enjoyed reading some of the nominated books each year and speculating on who would win. I don’t know why the Booker above all other prizes fascinated me so much (I do also enjoy the buzz that surrounds the Women’s Prize), but something about it captured my imagination.
This year was different however. First they changed the rules of writers eligible to win– and I couldn’t decide what I thought about that. Certainly I’m all for equality and opening things up to everyone – generally in life, but I felt like they had changed the Booker suddenly. I couldn’t explain why, but I didn’t like it. It’s like allowing American competitors to take part in the Commonwealth Games, the competition would fundamentally change. Then later when the long list was announced there was a lot of justifiable comment on social media about how few women were nominated, and the complicated submission rules. I think all the grumbling and controversy put me off the whole thing rather. Determined to take my usual interest (I don’t usually try to read the whole long or short list – but I generally read two or three) I downloaded to my kindle, The Blazing Word by Siri Hustvedt and We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – two of the American authors long listed. I didn’t get on with Hustvedt at all- giving up at 18% and have yet to try the Karen Joy Fowler, of which I have heard mixed reports. After that I rather grumpily ignored the whole thing.
On the night the winner was announced I was watching the new series of The Apprentice, and not really thinking about the imminent announcement. Usually I would have watched/listened live if the announcement was being broadcast, and joined in the excited speculation on Twitter. As it happens just minutes after the announcement was made, I glanced at my Twitter feed and saw the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize was Richard Flanagan for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Something about that poetic title piqued my interest. I looked the book up, and downloaded it to my kindle minutes later. Last year I read the Booker winner over half term, and I may do that this year though I am juggling a few review copies that I really need and want to read soon.
So it seems I have got over my little tantrum, and I may after all complete my Booker project which I began quite a number of years ago. The challenge: merely to read everything that had ever won. I still have several of the unread Booker winners on my TBR bookcase, but I don’t think I have read any Booker winning novels since I laid aside the glorious The Luminaries last October.
As well as this year’s winner – I still have these nine to read: four of which I have had on my shelves for a long time.
1994 – James Kelman, How Late It Was, How Late
1986 – Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils
1980 – William Golding, Rites of Passage
1976 – David Storey, Saville
1974 – Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist
1974 – Stanley Middleton, Holiday (joint winners)
1972 – John Berger, G
1970 – Bernice Rubens, The Elected Member
1969 – P H Newby, Something to Answer For
Maybe I’ll do it one day, but some of those titles rather intimidate me. And still I can’t explain what it is about the booker that has interested for so long; I haven’t even liked all the books. Considering how many ‘old books’ I read the Booker shouldn’t be something that I’m all that bothered about, but it seems I am after all, not entirely cured of my fascination of the Booker Prize.