Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fetch My Smelling Salts

The Booker longlist is out, and to my great surprise it contains one novel I've read and liked (The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, review here), one novel I own and am eager to read (The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt), one novel which I'm very curious about due to high praise from trustworthy reviewers (Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel), and one novel by an author whose previous novel I liked very much (How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall, returning to respectable literary fiction after a walk on the SF side with The Carhullan Army). This is very nearly unprecedented. The last time I actually cared about the Booker nominees was in 2004 when David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas was nominated, and a heavy favorite to win. Of course, it lost to Brideshead Revisited 2: Revenge of the Tories, and both that upset and subsequent longlists and shortlists have repeatedly reinforced my feeling that the Booker is awarded in some alternate universe of readers who are looking for completely different things from fiction than I am, and I'd gotten used to ignoring the award. Though I wouldn't be surprised if most of the interesting nominees on the longlist got winnowed during the shortlist's creation, the very fact that I'm hoping otherwise is a huge step forward in my relationship with this award.

In less encouraging literary fiction news, Yann Martel is about to break his near decade-long silence with a new novel, coming in 2010. Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether the author of Life of Pi really needed to grace the literary world with another work of fiction, much less get paid three million dollars for it, the actual novel sounds vile: "Like Life of Pi, it will be an allegory involving animals – this time tackling the Holocaust via the medium of a donkey and a howling monkey." It is taking everything I've got not to go Godwin all over this topic, but I honestly had thought that the twee Holocaust fashion had run its course with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.


Anonymous said...

Twee Holocaust, over? Surely not. "Inglourious Basterds" hasn't come out yet.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

I'm not sure I'd call Inglorious Basterds twee. Triumphant, maybe, which has its own problems. This article suggests that this year's Holocaust novel is Every Man Dies Alone, beating out the much-hyped The Kindly Ones because of its 'wholesomeness.' Given the book description, however, it seems likely that the term is being used relatively - apparently it would be hard not to seem wholesome when stacked up against The Kindly Ones.

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