Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Debates not contributed to

Forget about roads not travelled, there's an increasing number of debates I've not been contributing to. The travails at the Poetry Society (details are all over the web but here's one of the more reliable summaries) seem sad, because small organisations can have an impact far beyond their size, and good corporate governance is as important here, as it is at News International. The devil makes work for idle boards to do it seems. As neither subscriber to Poetry Review or member of the Poetry Society, its the kind of club that brings out the Groucho in me, but I'd hoped at some point in the future, as a poet at least, to have some nodding acquaintance with either.

As for the Booker longlist, announced yesterday, its the old and the new, as ever, and it increasingly seems the novel's top contest is as open as a Golf major in the post-Tiger Woods days. (Tigers do well in the Booker by the way, so its not a totally spurious analogy!) Great to see small publishers on there, again. I've not read any of the books, so I can't really comment. I have a sneaking suspicion that the "big names" might not make it to the final six, if only because quite a few of the new books seem quite interesting and original in subject matter (if not in style.) A judging panel including the ex-head of MI5 and the writer of "The Woman in Black" is likely to be going for a good story or two, I'd think.

What's clear - or has been for a few years - is that there's no new broom to the Booker, no new generation of writers taking all before them, and proclaiming the irrelevancy of those that have gone before. History features strongly, as ever, the Indian subcontinent seems to have fallen a little out of favour (or maybe it's just this year), and there's a welcome return to the list with Jane Rogers indepedently published pseudo SF novel.

I like the Booker, its quirks, its annoyances, and spits and spats - and also its occasional ability at picking out some of the better books of the year. I've read 7 of the last 9 winners, but only one ("Wolf Hall") genuinely seemed the best of the bunch.

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