Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2012 Man Booker Prize Announced

Today, Hilary Mantel was awarded the 2012 Man Booker Prize for her book Bring Up the Bodies, a sequel to the 2009 Booker-winning Wolf Hall. She was the favourite to win the award at 6/4 odds; it is "the third time in eight years that the favorite has won the award (Wolf Hall was one of the others)." The win marks two other milestones: "Not only does Hilary Mantel become the first British novelist and the first woman to win the prize twice, she is also the first writer to win double glory with a sequel."

This year's Booker contest sparked a debate about readability and popular fiction winning the award; the chair of the prize, Sir Peter Stothard, previously ruffled feathers with his stodgy opinion on bloggers and literary criticism, while simultaneously stating that the Man Booker should not be defined by "readability." It is interesting, then, that the prohibitive favourite and previous winner should win the award. For all its talk of challenging readers and selecting lasting titles, the Prize committee chooses the most obvious novel. The Guardian has a similar opinion:
"The other novels on the shortlist could never be so popular. Deborah Levy's Freudian tale of madness among the middle classes, Jeet Thayil's brilliantly rambling stories of druggy Bombay, Tan Twan Eng's exploration of atrocity and artistry, Alison Moore's slow-burning portrait of a man in flight from his past: Mantel's is, literally and metaphorically, a weightier book than these. 
"But Mantel's real challenger on the shortlist, and the novel that has missed out to her double coronation, must have been Will Self's Umbrella. An undeniably daunting slab of high modernist prose, without such concessions as speech marks or paragraph breaks, it's also a brilliantly absorbing and audacious meditation on madness, consciousness, technology, war and the mess of the 20th century.
"As a highbrow panel dropped the previous year's demands for "readability" in favour of complexity and the sheer pleasures of innovative prose, it looked for a while as though it could have been Self's year. As it is, perhaps Umbrella would have been too radical a choice for a prize that, as the country's biggest, cannot help but be a little conservative."
For another year, the Booker Prize offers lively debate about literature, literary critics, and readers. Whether you agree with the selection or not, you can't argue about keeping great literature in the spotlight. Now the watch begins for next year!

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