06 August, 2007

Book Rant

Tried out St Mary's Church in Barnes on Sunday. It was very very white and middle-class. It even had real live bell-ringers. Fortunately the only other non-white person there apart from me was so very colourful that she allowed me to blend invisibly into the background. She was a black lady with orange hair, a baby-pink cowboy hat with a sequin-encrusted brim, and a maroon paisley blouse. It was quite a contrast.

The Bishop of London was the celebrant (and he is the celebrant next week too). How weird, I would have thought he was far too busy to show up at insignificant parish churches for regular services. At least I assume it was the Bishop of London. It was a bishop, in London, called Richard.

I was reading a book over the shoulder of a woman on the train today. It was one of those dreadful post-colonial subcontinental fish out of water novels, where the narrator, who always seems to be exceptionally dim-witted and inarticulate, tries to impart a sensation of fresh naivete by talking about eg "English ghosts in their flouncy nighties", and by using short colloquial sentences like: "He left. Bye bye. Ta ta." Not in reported speech. Just as prose. I read this far and thought, God what is this awful, half-digested, please-be-interested-in-my-banal-experience-just-because-I'm-brown, incompetent, first-novel codswallop? No doubt it has been brought out by a small worthy ethnic imprint.

Then the woman closed the book. It was the Booker Prize-winning The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai.

Oh my god! This is why I've given up reading contemporary novels. That novel was CRAP! It was CRAP! How could it have won the Booker prize? Why was the NYT book reviewer calling it "astounding" and the LRB "an amazing achievement"? The only thing astounding about it was that anyone could read it without wanting to bludgeon themselves to death with it. The only thing amazing about its achievement was that anyone would buy this hogwash, let alone give it an award.

Oh, well. Back to the Eclogues.


Blogger Tiny said...

Often, books that won prizes doesn't mean they are really good. They are just good in the eyes of the judges. There are people who would a certain book just because it has won a prize.

I buy books only when I find them interesting.

3:49 am  
Blogger Songshards said...

Good policy tiny. Just the other day I was thinking how little of the award-winning/nominated books I've read because I spend so much time reading children's books. Of the list of Booker nominees and winners I've only read God of Small Things (loved it), Waterland (powerful) and Reef (okay). And the movies of Remains of the Day, English Patient and Notes on a Scandal.

4:30 am  
Blogger Songshards said...

I should've added that I have picked up some of the others on the list but haven't been intrigued enough to read them.

4:39 am  
Blogger mango said...

Life of Pi is one Booker prize winner that deserved it. Highly recommended. The image of the protagonist, Pi, awash in a lifeboat in a storm in the middle of the Pacific with a seasick 450 pound Bengal tiger is hilarious.

7:23 am  
Blogger 962 said...

I think that was it Shards
God of small things
If it was the book I was trying to remember its probably the most evocative english I have ever read, you can smell the page
I will run home and check tonight.

As a story it needs to be read several times but, its like chocolate to readers, soft and brown and easy to continue to eat up.

8:59 am  
Blogger dgny said...

I'm more likely to read a Booker prizewinner than I am to note many other "awards", but I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction.

Actually, I'm in a reading gap at the moment because I've decided my head has enough crime novel images in it to last a lifetime, I read enough classics in Uni, I don't like a lot of "modern" fiction and my favourite sci-fi authors just don't write enough.

Actually, you could do me a favour. Go roust Jon Courtenay Grimwood and give him a kick in the teeth. Or a big snog. Whatever will get him writing more. Apparently he hangs out at Cafe Nero in Winchester (is that pronounced Winster?).

8:20 pm  

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