Ned Beauman - The Teleportation Accidents
Andre Brink - Philida
Nicola Barker - The Yips
Tan Twan Eng - The Garden of Evening Mists
Michael Frayn - Skios
Rachel Joyce - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Deborah Levy - Swimming Home
Hilary Mantel - Bring Up the Bodies
Alison Moore - The Lighthouse
Will Self - Umbrella
Jeet Thayil - Narcopolis
Sam Thompson - Communioun Town
Today, I had to call a plumber, as the loo swallowed a bleach block and is now backed up. And now, I read that Will Self has made the Booker longlist. This is what scientists call “random clustering”. No crap for weeks, and now suddenly I am elbow deep in it.
I read the Booker list every year. Last year was the first time I bet on the right winner. Can I get it right again? Can I get through a Will Self novel without prescription medication? Stay tune my little blog warts….
Like DFW*, you may well not appreciated God’s “laid back management style”, but a hotelier replacing the guest rooms’ bedside bibles with latest cult (yes, that is a spelling mistake) favourite “50 shades of…” is one step away from a hospital pass and a form fitting jacket.
If you are a Christian, no doubt you would find this offensive. If you are a reader, I imagine the assault on your sensibilities is even more acute. I am reminded of the woman I bought my flat from. When I first went round to view the property, I did some measuring up to see if my book cases would fit in. The woman pointed at me and said “oh yes, I am a great reader myself. I’m in a book club. Let me show you what I’m reading at the moment, because you’ll love this”. She vanished, and reappeared later with the autobiography of Paul Birrell, Princess Diana’s barmy butler. I am still wounded by the fact that someone would confuse my love of literature with “purveyor of crap”.
Had I the choice between reading the bible or reading the colour chart of cack, guess which one I’d pick? (clue: the one with the huge cast list, which includes ‘the greatest story every told’, has been read and studied for centuries and does not include extensive repetition of phrases like “engorged manhood”).
And yet, people of less discriminating temperament are, in their herd-like droves, buying this “50 shades of shit” malarky. Only yesterday, I was forced to overhear some woman in the supermarket, telling her phone loudly that she was enjoying her reading experience for “the porn”. Not only did this convince me for the need to invest in the £270 (and worth every penny) Bosse noise cancelling headphones, as recommended in A.M. Homes’ “This book will save your life”, but it has continued to trouble me. Why, with so much porn freely available online, would anyone wade through this GBH on the English language? I cannot come up with a conclusion. Are there many aspiring pseudo-intellectuals who enjoy paperback naughtiness? Sales figures suggest so.
* David Foster Wallace, author of “Infinite Jest”, and master of the footnote.
Bernard Malamud. Pulitzer prize winner. National book award winner. And coming in third place (in terms of nameability) in a three horse race with Saul Bellow and Philip Roth (who have, likewise, written extensively of the Jewish-American experience).
Perhaps, this is because because Malamud was not as prolific? But never mind the volume, Madam, feel the width - Malamud is precise. One word sentences. In fact, one word paragraphs. “America”. In that one word he captures the thwarted ambitions and deadened despair, of his protagonist, Morris Bober. Malamud’s dialogue is pitch perfect (which is uncommon in prose writers). And in “The Assistant” the slow reveal of reversal after reversal, again, is more commonly practiced by dramatists rather than novelists.
Malamud famously said “life is a tragedy full of joy”. And that pretty much sums up “The Assistant”. It is a joy to read, but you won’t be doing the ‘bring me sunshine dance’ after you’ve read it.