20 October 2011

Man Booker Prize Winner

So on Tuesday night the winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize was announced as Julian Barnes for The Sense of an Ending. In my summary post I had predicted this although it wasn't my favourite.

I did think his book was beautiful (although I thought the ending could have been more subtle) and wonderfully written. I also loved the physical cover of the book - Barnes commented that with ebooks being so popular he wanted to make sure his books were things that were physically appealing as well, a sentiment I agree with as someone who loves beautiful books on a purely physical level.

Whilst there were two books I preferred to Barnes, it is a wonderful book and Barnes' talent for writing is undeniable. The thing that dampens my pleasure is however Barnes' attitude towards the prize. He hardly did any publicity and didn't attend the event the night before the announcement which all the other shortlisted authors did. Speaking to one of the organisers, this wasn't because he couldn't but because he didn't want to.

When he speaks, he gives the impression that he's above it all which is hardly appealing. When he won, he didn't mention the other novelists in his speech and thanked the judges 'for their wisdom'. Needless to say, he did accept the £50 000 prize.

My winner was definitely Patrick DeWitt - it was my favourite before the event on Monday and the event only reinforced this. Patrick was friendly and funny and his reading of an extract of the book added more to it and highlighted things I hadn't noticed when I read it and made me want to go home and read it again.

The event generally was great. I took the sixth formers who I have been shadowing the award with and they loved it as well. The five authors who were there were all really friendly and approachable (Stephen Kelman was particularly lovely). It was great to meet them and hear a bit about their books from their perspective, as well as get all my books signed. Barnes had left a pile of signed books so at least I've got a signed copy of the winner.

I thought Barnes would win because of the judging panels view that it was his best work and also in the face of the criticism about readability this year. I think it is a shame that a more unique and just as well written novel was passed over to calm the critics. I hope that next years shortlist is not a list of unreadable wordy novels that have no worth other than the length of their words. As Carol Birch said on Monday, literaryness (not a word I suppose) and readability are not mutually exclusive and Booker should continue to celebrate books that are both of these things.

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