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Friday, February 22, 2008

Book That’s Handicapped to Win the Booker of Bookers Prize

posted by on February 22 at 12:07 PM

Yesterday, I wrote about how the Booker Prize people were awarding a “Best of the Booker Prize” Prize.

Today, news comes that bookmakers have placed Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi way up on the list of potential winners.

Jesus fucking Christ.

The Life of Pi is the M. Night Shyamalan movie of the book world, an embarrassing piece of fluff strung out into a “twist” ending so weak and unnatural that the author had to couch the twist with its own criticism in order to get away with it.

I remember when Martel read here in Seattle, just after winning the Booker, and someone in the audience asked him, basically, why he’s so great and why his book is so goddamned wonderful. “Well,” Martel responded, his voice thick with the condescension of a Wise Man about to Distribute Knowledge to the Ignorant Masses, “I think you can look at the book in three different ways…” And then he proceeded to provide thoughtfully fawning, awestruck, in-depth literary criticism of his own book. I have never seen this before or since, and I have attended readings by John Irving, who believes that John Irving is the Messiah. My jaw (literally) dropped, but the audience lapped it up and gave a huge round of applause.

If Yann Martel wins the Booker King Prize, I will stop reading Booker Prize-winning books. This isn’t a huge sacrifice, of course, because the nominees for the Booker Prize that don’t wind up winning are actually almost always better than the winner of the Booker Prize. But it will be the strongest piece of evidence yet that lit prizes don’t mean shit. And there’s a lot of evidence that points in that direction already.

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Man, they sure are lame this year.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 22, 2008 12:17 PM

Oh, my god, that's humiliatingly awful.

Is this evidence that the literary tradition in Britain has finally sunk as low as its American counterpart?

Posted by Fnarf | February 22, 2008 12:18 PM

It's really hard to read a book when you're always drunk.

Posted by Mr. Poe | February 22, 2008 12:19 PM

Does that mean John Irving ISN'T the Messiah? Well, golly gee whillikers then, Garp must not be the Great American Novel!!! Oh no!!! (To be honest, Owen Meaney and Cider House Rules very well might be.)

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 22, 2008 12:19 PM

Yeah, lit prizes always attract assholes. Go figure.

Posted by Greg | February 22, 2008 12:21 PM

P.S.: Pat Conroy makes the short list too.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 22, 2008 12:22 PM

Why are Seattle audiences such suck-ups? It's fucking humiliating.

Posted by keshmeshi | February 22, 2008 12:26 PM

Life of Pi is slight at best. Yuck.

Posted by Lola | February 22, 2008 12:28 PM

Lolita is the Great American Novel. There are no other contenders from the 20th century; only Huckleberry Finn comes close.

Posted by Fnarf | February 22, 2008 12:34 PM

American literature's better anyways. Has been since about 1850. Shhh, don't tell.

Posted by Ryno | February 22, 2008 12:46 PM

I'm still beefed that "The Siege of Krishnapur" beat out "Gravity's Rainbow". The Booker Prize, what a fucking joke.

Life of Pi FTW!

Posted by nbc | February 22, 2008 12:51 PM

Nevermind, I was thinking of the Pulitzer.

Posted by nbc | February 22, 2008 12:54 PM

Lolita. Written by a Russkie about a bunch of Brits. Hmph. I'm with you on Sam Clemens, though.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 22, 2008 1:07 PM

nbc, yeah the Pulitzer is WAY more embarrassing than even the Booker. Cormac McCarthy? Really? National Book Award is somewhat less horrifying.

Posted by conium | February 22, 2008 1:15 PM

And as long as . . . hmmm . . . I brought up the subject of the Gqeat American Novel, I've gotta throw Catcher in the Rye into the ring. Oh, I know, I know, it's hip to not like it becuse it's so hip to like it, but the book touched a nerve in our society like very few others have.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 22, 2008 1:21 PM

Paul, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of this book, and this potential award. I fought reading Life of Pi for a while, as is my wont with every "hot" new book "everyone is reading." But then I did. And I felt totally ripped off at the end. I'm actually ashamed to have it on my bookshelf, and when I see someone else reading it, I automatically assume they are an idiot, similarly to anyone who thinks the movie version of V for Vendettta is "amazing".

Posted by bookworm | February 22, 2008 1:29 PM

I liked Life of Pi but it's definitely overrated as you say. Boooo.

I'll still read Booker books if it does, though. Don't worry, I'll fill you in.

Posted by Katelyn | February 22, 2008 1:38 PM

Life of Pi pissed me off.

Stranger in A Strange Land for Great American Novel.

Posted by NaFun | February 22, 2008 1:41 PM

@13: Nabokov was enthusiastically American after emigrating here. And Lolita is in no way "about a bunch of Brits." Have you even read it? Or are you confused by the fact that Jeremy Irons starred in the most recent remake?

Posted by Aislinn | February 22, 2008 1:48 PM

@15: I loved Catcher in the Rye. Fuck the haters.

Posted by Aislinn | February 22, 2008 1:50 PM

Aislinn, never had the pleasure (?) of seeing the remake, so no, I don't think so. But it was set in England. Mbuna.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | February 22, 2008 2:17 PM

@21: It was most definitely set in America.
The remake was not so good, Kubrick's version (with a Nobokov-penned screenplay) was much better.

I'm still with you on the mbuna.

Posted by Aislinn | February 22, 2008 2:27 PM

I liked Life of Pi. It was fun, and I enjoyed the discussion about zoos in the beginning. Yes, nominating it for the the "Best of the Booker" is going overboard, but is it really worthy of such a big pretentious hipster flip-out?

Posted by Ashley | February 22, 2008 2:29 PM

1)uh, no, the majority of Lolita takes place in the U.S. The first 30 pages recount of Humbert's life prior to coming to America; his birth, childhood, early Lolita experiences, his shitty marriage to Valeria, his divorce, THEN on the eve of war he emigrates to the U.S.
2)Owen Meany and Ciderhouse Rules are soppy drivel; everyone knows that Garp and Hotel New Hampshire are the best Irving novels.
3)Catcher in the Rye is ok. One of those books you HAVE to read when you're a teenager but don't bear re-reading because you'll be disillusioned.
4)The Great Gatsby is the great American novel, DUH!
5)Lolita counts as an American novel because it's ABOUT America. I quote from the flyleaf: "a cutting expose of chronic American adolescence and shabby materialism..."

Posted by michael strangeways | February 22, 2008 2:36 PM

Man, i knew Life of Pi sucked as soon as I read the back and found out it's not about the irrational number.

Posted by Ben | February 22, 2008 3:03 PM

My vote is for Herman Melville's The Confidence Man, where Melville's sense of humor--like Twain's, but more blatantly nihilistic--really comes to the forefront. Mind you, Moby Dick is still, arguably, the stronger work, but that nasty little wink that The Confidence Man keeps giving me always brings me back to its fold.

Other notables would be Ellison's Invisible Man and Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.

I have to confess I've never been "cool" enough to hate Salinger or Kerouac like we're supposed to, just like I've never been "cool" enough to find Hemingway anything but tedious.

Posted by thelyamhound | February 22, 2008 3:18 PM

Lolita counts as an American novel because it was WRITTEN BY AN AMERICAN. Nabokov was a US citizen. Look it up. And the book is not only set in America, it is in large part a paean to the real America, of highways and mountains and car seats and motel rooms. It's the book that On The Road wishes it was, but couldn't be, because Kerouac couldn't see, couldn't hear, and couldn't write.

Catcher in the Rye is good too, for a Young Adult novel.

Posted by Fnarf | February 22, 2008 3:20 PM

And another undeserving book award thief: Only Revolutions by Danielewski won a National Book Award. WHAT?! I am a committed, dedicated reader and haven't abandoned a book in many years. YEARS! Only Revolutions broke my streak.

Posted by J-9 | February 22, 2008 4:18 PM

Everything I´ve come across that´s won screamed flash-in-the-pan two pages in, with the exception of Zadie Smith´s ´White Teeth´ which has got to be the best thing to come out of Britain since Graham Greene died, and damn well stands up there with the best living Americans (in my opinion, Pynchon, McCarthy, Morrison, and Denis Johnson).

Posted by Grant Cogswell | February 22, 2008 4:56 PM

Thank god for this post. Let us not forget, as well, that amongst the bullshit about religion which makes the first 100 pages of this book virtually unreadable there is also a pretty flagarant defense of slavery and fascism, which for some weird metaphorical reason are refered to by Martel as 'zoos.'

Posted by johnnie | February 22, 2008 5:33 PM

Nothing can be as bad as the 1994 Booker Prize winner, How late it was, how late by James Kelman. There were stacks of remaindered copies at my local bookstore. I thought, "How bad could a Booker Prize winner be? I liked Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha." Well I soon found out.

From wikipedia:
One of the judges, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, threatened to resign if it won, and upon the book being granted the prize, stormed off the panel, saying, "Frankly, it's crap."

Posted by trainspotter | February 23, 2008 9:05 AM

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