Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Booker shortlist

Sorry you didn't all enjoy the Didion, which I was glad to have read. But interesting thoughts on that and Anna K, thank you.

Fascinating idea to do a Booker-style vote. I also read the Booker article, and was very disappointed to hear how random, political and arbitrary the winners were. Makes more sense of the results, though, which are very seldom as I'd choose! I also clocked The Blue Flower preference. Since it was one of the most disappointing and depressing books I'd read in a while, I'm not sure letting the Booker judges reform the process would solve the problem of bad or unrepresentative choices! A classic study in choice by committee, isn't it? It isn't even that they all agreed on a compromise candidate. Quite often, it seemed, a majority would not have voted for the winner, and things got inadvertently dropped before shortlisting which, if included, many felt would actually have won. There seemed to be little facility (except for the odd honourable exception amongst the chairs of judges), to take a step back. "Do any of us actually want this? Is there a book we'd planned to drop which would be a better compromise candidate?" etc.

As to OUR choices... you're quite right, Valerie, that the choice is almost paralysing. Especially, I think, as we read such an eclectic selection. We're comparing fiction, non-fiction, self-help type, crossover... So I personally would have to choose: In non-fiction, "Shakespeare" was just so informative, and in a way I manage to retain some of! In self-help type category, "Counselling for Toads". J's been reading The Wind in the Willows to M5, for the first time since we read the adult book, and I'm struck again by how absolutely on the money it is. For technical artistry I'd have to vote for "We need to talk". I still find it extraordinary. For book I most often return to, it's "A month in the country". There is not a syllable out of place in that book and it is neither bleak nor sentimental but perfectly judged. I don't know if there's a word for satisfyingly-a-bit-depressing-but-uplifting-because-it's-perfect-and-has-crucial-redemptive-theme, but that's what i mean. Reminds me of "The Shipping News" in that respect. And a highly commended for "Bel Canto", which I still return to and warm to enormously, somewhat despite myself.