Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Left unmoved

I am feeling rooked. I made the mistake of reading last year's Booker Prize Winner, The Sea. It starts out rather nicely, with superb use of language. At a number of points, he captures the feelings of memory and how it can almost overwhelm you. He also does some, but not enough, work on how memory can trick you, how the little details are filled in after the fact. And that's pretty much it. There is a story of sorts. The main character's wife has recently died, so he travels to the seashore where he passed an idyllic summer, and where another inexplicable tragedy happened.

And that is a large part of the problem. The tragedy is random and the results are unexplored. So why does he include it in the book? I suppose it is about dealing with grief and how you never get over certain things, but I didn't think it worked at all. He mulls over the memories of the past, but the tragic element is tacked on at the end. I guess you could argue that we don't like to face the awful, and instead surround it in the happy, but even so, I don't think that worked. Curse you, Booker Prize Committee.

I shouldn't be so mean to the Booker Prize People. Looking back at the prize winner's I have read, I like far more than I dislike.

2005 The Sea by John Banville (thumbs down)
2004 The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (Rather enjoyed it)
2002 Life of Pi bby Yann Martell (Quite liked it)
2000 The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (Great book)
1999 Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee ( it was OK)
1998 Amsterdam: A Novel by Ian McEwan ( not his best, it was OK)
1997 The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (OK)
1996 Last Orders by Graham Swift (Loved it, like I do most of his work)
1995 The Ghost Road by Pat Barker (so-so)
1994 How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman (I've not read it but I should mention this is my wife's least favorite book of all time. I think she is down on the Booker thanks to this one)
1992 Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth (co-winner) (Too long, but overall excellent)
1990 Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt (Super fantastic)
1989 The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (So much reading fun that some buzzkill somewhere has probably banned it)
1988 Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (Great)
1983 Life & Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee (Pretty good)
1981 Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (Not my favorite)
1978 The Sea, the Sea by Irish Murdoch (Definitely not my favorite Murdoch who I tend to like)
1975 Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (OK)
1973 The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G Farrell ( A wonderful book)

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