Another year, another long list that causes contention, consternation and constipation amongst critics and readers alike. The most anally argued award of the season is under way. Whoever wins there will be someone who won’t agree. Now the Booker shortlist has been announced and the mud slinging has begun. Cries of why or why or why didn’t such and such an author make the list when they wrote the best novel of the twenty-first century? How anyone can argue that point is beyond me. History and time dictates the greats, none of us will be there to see it, not even the poor writer who wrote the bloody thing. What makes a good novel? It changes from decade to decade, century to century, day to day. What was in vogue a hundred years ago is not in fashion now. What was hotly tipped lasted year is being served up in dog food this year.
Judging any competition is hard. Judging a competition that is so scrutinised by the media is even harder. Becoming a Booker judge is a doubled edged sword. There is the kudos. There is the fact that you are respected enough to be able to do the bloody job. The downside is that for nearly a year the media and the critics will ride you through all the levels of hell whipping with the corpses of dead writers and poets (today I will be mainly whipped by Dylan Thomas). For that is a true representation of the Booker within modern society. Doesn’t matter who wins. The media and the critics will moan about it for another year, point the finger at the judges and cry foul play. Ask the critics of the Booker to do the job and a majority will run for the hills or back under the rocks they came from. I love the Booker. I love all awards. They increase readership and that should be celebrated. The writer wrote the bloody thing, spent years, days, hours crafting the novel but it is the reader that gives it life.
For my money, I think Emma Donaghue’s Room should win. If she doesn’t win I won’t be moaning, or crying foul play. I will feel sorry for her but then she doesn’t need my pity, her sales shot up the moment she made the Booker long list. She found new readers who may stick with her. That must be worth a celebration.