Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lost Booker Prize Winner Announced

With the series finale of Lost a couple of days away, it is fitting that the "Lost" Booker Prize for 1970 was announced this week. J.G. Farrell's Troubles took home the prize, beating out The Birds on the Trees by Nina Bawden,The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard, Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault and The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark. There are two things about this novel that intrigue me. One, it won by a popular vote - getting 38% of the votes - rather than by jury selection. Two, it's the first novel in Farrell's Empire Trilogy, which includes The Siege of Krishnapur, a title very familiar to DTABC readers. It was our second selection way back in 2008. While no one actually finished the novel, it has always intrigued me as a counter to the traditional depictions of India, filling the gap between the colonial literature of Kipling and Forrester and the post-colonial works of Rushdie, Ondaatje, and, more recently, Aravind Adiga. At any rate, it seems that the British public feels that I should give Farrell another chance, perhaps including Troubles along the way. The third book in the trilogy is The Singapore Grip, about Singapore just prior to the Japanese occupation in WW2. This one may be a counter to the traumatic experience that another J.G., Ballard, provided with his Empire of the Sun. Perhaps Farrell's Empire Trilogy will be the summer's reading pick. It is a worthy candidate.

On another note, reading the coverage of the award announcement, I realized that the CBC Books editors don't read books themselves, or they don't think that their readers read books, evidenced by the closing line of the article: "Salman Rushdie, Yann Martel, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel, J.M. Coetzee, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje are among the writers who have won the Booker since its debut in 1969." My question is, what is the purpose of this line? I have to think that a) if you're reading this article, you know what the Booker prize is, and b) if you've read, or even heard of, authors like Rushdie, Coetzee or Ishiguro, you've probably read other Booker winners and nominees over the years. There are no "casual" readers of any of these authors, nor are any of them, save for Atwood and perhaps Martel, going to be known to people who are not avid readers as it is. CBC, did you just need 30 extra words to meet a quota?

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