Friday, October 9, 2009

Very long rant about The Man Booker Prize

So the other day S. Krishna had a post about how she loves the Man Booker Prize, and it reminded me of what an odd beast I find this prize to be.
A long while ago, back when I only had my blog about my life, before I had a book blog even, I posted a rant about the Man Booker Prize. I feel like ranting more, so I'm going to post a slightly different version of the post I posted way back then.

The Man Booker Prize is a weird thing, I think.

The first Man Booker winner I read was "the Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. I LOVED it. Seriously. It was a great book. I just loved the author's way of expressing himself. Serious yet funny and almost sarcastic at the same time. And the story was so fantastic and interesting, and I just wanted so badly to believe. And I loved all the imagery and the way the author presented it. I really think that the only thing about I didn't like was that it wasn't a true story. And that the author decided last minute to try to make you believe that even within the fiction it wasn't true. I really did love this book.

The second Man Booker winner I read was "The God of Small Things." In my Summer Book list post, this is what I had to say about it:
Title:The God of Small Things
Author:Arundhati Roy
Rating:0 Stars! (I would give negative stars here if I could.)
What I Have to Say:This is possibly the WORST book I have ever read. The author was trying to hard, and it seem like she was deliberately trying (but failing, actually) to confuse the reader (maybe into believing that there was a point to her ridiculous prose). Seriously, I don't know how I finished it. I hated the author's writing style. I hated the story. I hated the non-stop onomotapoeias. And more than that, I sort of hated the characters. I was intrigued enough persever unti the end, hoping the ending might make it just a bad book and not a horrible book, but I hated even the ending. Somehow the ending managed to make it even WORSE, which before the ending, I didn't think was possible.
Seriously, I really think that this is the worst book I have ever in my life read.

So then I went on to read "the Gathering" by Anne Enright, was also a Man Booker winner. And it, too, was horrible. The main character was ridiculously annoying. There were times when I just wanted to strangle her (rather a violent reaction to a book character, I know). The author also did the really annoying onomatapoeia thing from "the God of Small" things, but less, so it was a little less annoying. Anne Enright seemed to be going for the vaguness of old memories, and she really got it. Everything just seemed vague and out of place, and stories were ending before they even started. And, as a reader, I never knew what to believe or even what she wanted me to believe. This put together could have actually been nice and given a great impression of how she was feeling (the premise was her family getting together because her brother died). But it wasn't. The best way to describe it is just plain ole boring and slightly annoying.

Then I was confused. Because "the Life of Pi" was so good, but "the God of Small Things" and "the Gathering" were both horrible in sort of the same way. I decided nonetheless to try "the Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood. And GUESS WHAT?!? I was once again disappointed by the Man Booker Prize. At least it was better than the other two. I mean, I didn't hate it this time. I was mostly just bored with it. I would give it 2 1/2 stars, or 3 if I am being nice.

So then the other day I was at the bookstore, and I saw a book that I have been wanting to read because of the beautiful cover, "the Enchantress of Florence" by Salman Rushdie. Unfortunately, it wasn't the version with the beautiful cover you see at the left, but I decided to buy it anyway and ended up with the less beautiful cover you see at the right.
I get home only to discover that, at the bottom of the book is written "Winner of the Man Booker Prize." And so now I will ONCE AGAIN read a winner of the Man Booker prize. I almost just want to host a giveaway and not even give it a try. After 4 flops and 1 awesome book, is it really worth it? But then I already own it, and there is that off chance that it will be awesome.

So, has anyone read any of the books in this post? If so, what do you think about them? Or has anyone ever read another Man Booker prize book? What are your thoughts? And most importantly, what are people's thoughts about "the Enchantress of Florence?" Should I suffer through it? Is there a chance that I will love it?


Anonymous said...

I'm very much with you here, in that I very much liked Life of Pi, hated God of Small Things, and wasn't that impressed by The Blind Assassin. (I skipped The Gathering.)

I don't have any opinion on The Enchantress of Florence-- good luck with it.

BeckyS said...

I don't usually do adult novels. They always seem to need so much effort on my part. The only one of these I have read is The Blind Assassin and to be honest I didn't enjoy it and don't really feel inspired to try another Man Booker winner.

Belle said...

I haven't read any of these, but both The Life of Pi and God of Small Things are both in my tbr pile. I don't read literary fiction that often, so don't tend to pick up any prize winners. I'm far more likely to read a book that's won a genre award! And I usually love the Newbery award winners.

Rhiannon Hart said...

Same--loved Life of Pi, couldn't finish the Atwood. I don't have an opinion about the booker as these are the only two I've read, but I'm not falling over myself to read any of them.

Lauren said...

I read The Blind Assassin ages ago, because I just really love Margaret Atwood. It wasn't my favourite of hers by a long shot, but I did like it.

My dad bought me The God of Small Things for Christmas once, presumably because he'd noticed my mother had a copy, and I just couldn't get into it. Actually, the list of books that have previously won reads like an inventory of my mother's bookshelves before I got her into YA. I think she reads better now.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I loved Life of Pi and The Blind Assassin, but found God of Small Things pretty meh.

Others I've read:

The Inheritance of Loss (liked it)
Vernon God Little (liked it)
The English Patient (this was a DNF because it was sooo boring)

Anonymous said...

I have only read God of Small Things and Life of Pi from this list, but I've also read another Salman Rushdie book called Midnight's Children. I loved all three, but I am weird. Sometimes I want YA novels that are gripping and endear me to every character, but other times I'm in the mood for something more literary and avant garde.

It took me over six months to read God of Small Things. I read it in small doses, in between lots of YA fiction. I actually loved the way she plays with language in it, and that's what held me to it. I also loved that the narrative starts at both the beginning and the end, working forward and backward simultaneously, until you end at the only perfect moment: in the middle. While not a story anyone could love (too heartbreaking), I appreciated the idea of it.

Salman Rushdie, just from the one book of his I've read, is very much the same way. He experiments with language and narrative in jarring ways, and I would suspect that if you didn't like God of Small Things, you won't like his writing either.

I hope that helps!

Misty said...

I read Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, which was an honor book one year, and LOVED it. Ended up reading everything by him, and each just got better.

Anonymous said...

What I've usually found is that I like the runners-up to the actual winner more than I like the winner. That said, I'm curious about this year's winner, but only curious enough to put myself on the waitlist for it at the library, not to spend $$ on it.

Aarti said...

Just commenting (late, I know) because this blog post caught my eye in your side bar.

I read The Enchantress of Florence and really, really enjoyed it but my good friend (who has very different taste than me in reading) said she couldn't even finish reading it.

I also really loved Life of Pi, and I have actually liked most Booker Prize winners I've read. I liked Possession, too. And LOVED Wolf Hall, this year's winner. So it's possible we just have different taste in books, but I hope you give Enchantress a try and let me know what you think!

3m.michelle said...

I don't have much luck with the Booker Prize, either. I did like Life of Pi and The White Tiger, and I suspect that I'll like Remains of the Day and Possession, too. I find I have much better luck with the Pulitzers, except The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I didn't enjoy at all.

Blodeuedd said...

Had to go refresh my memory :)

Oh I tried Roy and I gave up on page 5! How you managed to read it all I do not know.

I do not know if I should stay away from the books or not since I liked my Mantel book.

The Gathering, yikes wonder if I didn't try and give up on that one too

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