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Old 14th Oct 2010, 10:50   #251
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Default Re: Booker Prize 2010

Orthofer at the Literary Saloon has a bit of a rant about the prize, notably the allowing of publishers to submit titles for consideration and for the Booker organisers for not making available the list of titles submitted. Interesting to see this snippet:

Quote:
...in her post-Man Booker piece on Man Booker Prize: high-risk reading in The Telegraph one of this year's judges, Frances Wilson, reports that The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson's novel that took the prize, was: "called in from its publisher, Bloomsbury", i.e. apparently not formally submitted by the publisher -- and Emma Donoghue's Room also came to be in the mix in less than direct fashion:
Not formally submitted by her publisher, one of the Booker committee was at a party where Room was being praised; the next day we all took a look.
If the supposedly best titles are having to be called in rather than being submitted, what is it a prize for: the best book of the year, as the site proclaims, or the best strategically submitted title?
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Old 14th Oct 2010, 19:23   #252
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Default Re: Booker Prize 2010

I must admit, praise at a party hardly warrants a "call-in" to me. I would have expected call-ins to be something one of the judges has already read and wants the other judges to read. Not so, it seems.
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Old 14th Oct 2010, 20:03   #253
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Default Re: Booker Prize 2010

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Originally Posted by Ang View Post
I must admit, praise at a party hardly warrants a "call-in" to me. I would have expected call-ins to be something one of the judges has already read and wants the other judges to read. Not so, it seems.
I would disagree. I would expect the judges to have eyes and ears open everywhere they go, on the lookout for worthwhile books. I am not a fan of Room but I cannot criticize its inclusion on the list, however it got there.

The Finkler Question is another issue. Unlike most publishers, Bloomsbury has only one imprint and publishes many worthwhile books -- the "two books per publisher" restriction makes sense generally, but not for them (or Cape). I would suggest because they are not flooding the world with imprints. And as a book buyer, I salute that.

Certainly, if I was at Bloomsbury, I would not have submitted the winner -- McGregor, The Memory of Love and Chef were all better books. I think it is a testimony to the weakness of Jacobson's winner that many of us found his own publisher produced much better work.
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Old 17th Oct 2010, 14:45   #254
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Default Re: Booker Prize 2010

Just reading that Comment is Free thread on Finkler. Sweet Jesus in a box! Does anyone actually talk about the book at any point? As opposed to Jacobson's politics, the dread anti-semitism of people who don't like his work (on that score I can join John Self in the 'partial anti-semite' camp), and onwards forever. And before anyone mentions it, I'm aware that my previous comment makes me guilty of this as well.

I just want to know if the book's any good, and to answer that question, of course, I'll have to read it myself, really. Only way. I can see myself agreeing with John, and I can see myself agreeing with kevinfromcanada. I'll have to report back.

For a prime example of, 'this book is good because I interpret is as supporting my politics' see the link below.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...booker-theatre
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Old 17th Oct 2010, 16:32   #255
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Default Re: Booker Prize 2010

I really enjoyed The Finkler Question. Such an intelligent book, and written in hard, strong prose that somehow remains light, or at least not-heavy. And it is funny. I laughed out loud a few times:

Quote:
‘There’s something you should know about me,’ she said. ‘I’m a bit of arsonist. Not serious. I wasn’t going to burn down the church. But I am turned on by flame.’
He laughed and kissed her face. ‘Hush,’ he said. ‘Hush, my love.’
In the morning he woke to twin realisations. The first was that she had left him. The second was that his sheets were on fire.
Sharp, quick, vivid, bright, surprising. Love it! But there is something that drove me fairly nuts. A lot of the comedy is offered in dialogue and seems to rely on characters briefly misunderstanding what someone has said.

Some examples:

Pg. 92, Janice and Josephine:

Quote:
‘Christ, and those operas! When I think of all that dying on the record player…’
‘I know. “Oh God, to die so young!” I don’t just hear it, I can smell the sickbeds. Still. To this day. I sometimes think he’s exerting his communicative influence from afar.’
‘Puccini?’
‘No, Julian. But in fact it’s Verdi. Yours is Puccini.’
‘How does he do it?’
‘Puccini?’
‘No, Julian.’
Pg. 95, Treslove and Libor:

Quote:
It was Libor’s view that Treslove was overwrought - had been for some time - and probably needed a holiday. They could go away together to somewhere warm. Rimini, maybe. Or Palermo.
‘That’s what Sam said.’
‘That you and I should go to Rimini or that you and he should go to Rimini? Why don’t we all go?’
‘No, that I was overwrought […]’
Pg. 96, Treslove and Libor, a little later in the same scene:

Quote:
‘[…]When Mussolini visited Hitler in the Alps they played the Bach double violin concerto together. "And now let’s kill some Jews," Hitler said when they’d finished. You don’t have to be Jewish to like music.’
‘Is that true?’
‘That you don’t have to be Jewish to like music? Of course it’s true.’
‘No, about Hitler and Mussolini.’
Pg. 106, Janice, Josephine, Ralph and Alf:

Quote:
It was only as they were getting up to leave again, having agreed that the boys should at least give him a call and maybe take him out for lunch, that Alfredo remembered something else Uncle Sam had told him. ‘And, and… he’s decided he’s a Jew.’
‘Uncle Sam? Isn’t Uncle Sam already a Jew?’
‘No, Dad. Dad’s decided he’s a Jew.’
Note all those bits of dialogue beginning ‘No,…’

Perhaps it doesn't quite come across out of context, but these are meant to be amusing. Is it a writer overplaying a trope, or am I missing something? I wondered if it was to do with Jacobson’s views on how Jewish people talk, but then not all of the characters in the above examples are Jewish. But perhaps that’s the point? That in this ‘Jewish’ book we all misunderstand each other equally? Maybe there’s some meta-narrative going on, this whole layer of references and meanings that flew clean over my cheerfully ignorant head? But I do think he’s far too intelligent a writer for there not to be a reason for this kind of repetition.

Any ideas?
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Old 18th Oct 2010, 11:46   #256
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Default Re: Booker Prize 2010

I've never read any Howard Jacobson. Why? I couldn't tell you. In my mind I have him labelled sleazy. Why? Couldn't tell you.

Starting from this position of total ignorance, coupled with unfair smearing, I'm going to read The Finkler Question from now until lunchtime, behind the till, in between customers.

The results of this experiment, of interest to none but myself, will be reported this afternoon...

* * * * *

Time passes. The bookshop does the usual trick of failing to live up to the usual image of a small bookshop by being very busy. Everybody knows booksellers just sit around reading books all day right? Yeah right. Heroically I manage to read about 30 pages, up to around the first mention of the Holocaust.

Just before lunch a bloke asked me what I thought of The Finkler Question. I replied that I wasn't really sure yet. I said I thought it was always hard to be funny when you set out to be funny. (Standups respec! You get up on stage saying you're going to be funny you'd better be funny or you're dead.) Trailing this book as a comic novel leads to certain expectations and it kind of depends on your sense of humour eh? Personally what passes for humour in Jacobson's writing I find to be rather hard work and frankly pretty irritating. There's something approaching Shakespearian going on. By that I mean when you see Shakespeare performed there's a lot of comedy in the language but some of it is hopelessly lost in the mists of time and/or outdated cultural references. If you're reading the play it's at that point that extensive notes become useful but it's rare (as in never!) in my experience that after consulting them I roll around in hysterics. There's lots of word play and clever little jokes about Opera. I'm sorry, but I don't know much about Opera so those references go over my head. Rather than laughing I just feel a bit stupid or culturally misaligned. Then there are plenty of times when I just think Jacobson goes over the top with it all and just starts to sound like he's trying way too hard to be funny/clever.

"Treslove didn't look like anybody famous in particular, but looked like many famous people in general, and so was in demand if not by virtue of versimilitude, at least by virtue of versatility."

Are your sides splitting? Are you even smiling?

And then the Holocaust arrived and I started to want to read on. See I think there is something important to be discussed in this regard, something that should still be controversial and be out there in Booker Prize winning novels.

I read Stefan Zweig's elegant autobiography The World of Yesterday last year and was struck by the way in which German/Austrian Jews were convinced they would be OK because they loved Germany/Austria so much for the richness of culture, the openness of the German speaking public to new ideas, new methods of artistic expression etc. In many ways they felt themselves to be more German than the Germans. How could a thug such as Hitler come to power in such a cultured place?

Now at home I'm reading Grossman's Everything Flows and there's been some discussion of the 1952 Doctor's Affair during Stalin's era. Stalin claimed there was a conspiracy amongst Jewish doctors to kill prominent members of the party. It was nonsense of course and immediately following Stalin's death in 1953 the party admitted this, but by then many doctors had been executed and a virulently anti-semitic campaign launched with the backing of the entire Soviet propoganda machine. These are just two historical examples of anti-semitism rising to dangerous levels and there are many, many more.

The politics of the Middle East exert such influence on gloabal affairs. The whole Finkler Question if you like demands attention, discussion and thought. So I will carry on with Jacobson. I just hope that he's not going to get too partisan. Judging from some of the "discussion" elsewhere this is a book that is being seen as having a political agenda. But maybe it's hard not to get caught up in the politics if you are Jewish? Being white, middle class and male I always seem to be on the comfortable side of any debate. (Even the one that slams white, middle class blokes - I agree - what turds!) If I can fight my way through the word play and jokes to a place where I understand what it is like to be a Jew in the 21st century then I wont feel my time behind a till has been entirely wasted...

Last edited by Erm...Derek; 18th Oct 2010 at 16:31. Reason: Morning leaving, afternoon arriving.
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Old 18th Oct 2010, 19:56   #257
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Default Re: Booker Prize 2010

I can't really point to any particular lines that I found funny in The Finkler Question but I was certainly laughing out loud a lot. Something tells me this experiment of yours is not going to end well Erm...Derek.

Ono and I went to the Booker Winner event at Cheltenham on Saturday and Jacobson was very entertaining. Ion Trewin said it looks like this may overtake Wolf Hall in the fastest selling Booker winner. I did notice it is disappearing quickly from the shops, even in my nearest Waterstone's where the longlist didn't even get a display and the shortlist got one only a week or two before the winner announcement.
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Old 19th Oct 2010, 12:11   #258
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Default Re: Booker Prize 2010

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ang View Post
I can't really point to any particular lines that I found funny in The Finkler Question but I was certainly laughing out loud a lot. Something tells me this experiment of yours is not going to end well Erm...Derek.
I just snorted out loud - pretended I was coughing. I feel I am being gradually seduced by old men and have to confess I'm kind of enjoying it...

I'll take the book to lunch as well. Reading behind the till is by nature a covert activity. A Booker winner can just about be passed off as "research" but pretty soon degenerates into time wasting in the eyes of the owners. But picture the scene. You are surrounded by books all day. You love books. You're not supposed to read them - torture huh?

I am starting to feel that any lines pulled out of context will look lame. If I just get into the flow of the book I may get a good laugh yet.
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Old 24th Oct 2010, 12:01   #259
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Default Re: Booker Prize 2010

Around half way through Wednesday I began to wonder why I was still experimenting with Finkler.

I removed my sneaky "invisible" page marker and returned it to the shelf. This was not the first time it had been returned to the shelf. My colleague kept putting it back there before eventually saying:

"Are you going to buy this?"

"No, I'm just going to read it." I replied and staggered that bit closer to a second sacking. (Yes dear reader, I have already been sacked from this job once!)

I then looked through a list of previous Booker winners and realised I'd only enjoyed reading Wolf Hall, The Life of Pi, Disgrace and The Siege of Krishnapur. I realised the only reason I was reading Finkler was that the overlord SELF rated it so highly.

Today I'm back in the bookshop and pick up Adrian Mole The Prostrate Years. I pick it up because there is not quite room for it on the shelf and I fear unless I shift things around a bit the book will be damaged. Then I noticed Adrian Mole was working in a second hand bookshop these days. I began to read and within two pages was laughing out loud in a really rather embarrassing manner.

I have found my level! Less literary, more laughs...

And maybe this has something to do with "sleazy" being the first word that springs into my head when someone says Howard Jacobson...

Last edited by Erm...Derek; 24th Oct 2010 at 18:21. Reason: Sleaze
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