July 24, 2013

Booker books ... worthy of the hype?

I have a wariness of books that win prizes or garner too much praise and, with a few rare exceptions, tend to avoid them while the literary equivalent of the flash-bulb is popping everywhere. I much prefer to bide my time and let the book find its natural level of importance before venturing into its pages. This is usually only after I spot it at the library when it is no longer on short-term loan or book club waiting lists, or is discovered lurking in some over-stock bin or even in the second-hand or charity shop. (The height of a remainder pile is often a telling indictment on a book beloved by critics but not necessarily by readers!)

Does that make me some kind of cheapskate and an inverted book snob? I guess so. I always have problems with anything that is over-hyped. I feel the same about other forms of art – paintings, theatre, etc. and especially movies – too many Oscar winners have been huge disappointments.

So it is with my usual scepticism that I read today’s announcement of the Man Booker long list. How many of these titles will stand the test of time and reach a wide, appreciative and lasting readership? The cynic in me suggests it won’t be many as I haven’t had much luck personally in my struggle with Booker winners and nominees and many do seem to end up in aforementioned remainder piles.

I tend to find the American Pulitzer Prize a far better barometer of good fiction in the English language than this one. Why that should be is odd, considering my background is UK and British Commonwealth (the focus of Man Booker) and it probably says something about my rebellious nature as a reader. I’ll think about it and explore my reasoning and comparisons in a future post.

Anyhow, diving off my toffy-nosed perch into trivia and judging this long list by its covers, I’m pleased to see some well-designed ones that are eye-catching. I like the fun swing British version of Colum McCann’s Transatlantic a little more than the US one, and also the striking The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton takes the half-woman image in a completely new direction – although it seems to have two versionsand I’m intrigued as to the origin of the portrait hiding behind the half-moons and I hope she hasn’t already done time on other covers.

As on Waterstones UK

As on Google Books

Waterstones UK Version

Amazon US Version

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