Regular events always seem to make the year go more quickly - hairdressing appointments, committee meetings - even Christmas and birthdays. One no sooner seems to have passed than the next is upon us. I'm sure that the older one gets the more this is true. I do seem to remember in the far distant past waiting for Santa to arrive seemed an endless wait. Now the Christmas decorations are up on the high streets before they have had time to gather dust in whatever safe place they are put for the Summer.
Nowhere is this more true than in the annual Booker Prize for Literature. Because it falls so near to my birthday, I often get the prize book as a present and welcome it is too, although there have been times when I have been totally unable to finish it (Midnight's Children springs immediately to mind.) Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall' was a masterpiece and a great pleasure to read.
This year's short list was an interesting one because there were two first-time authors on it. The winner was Julian Barnes, and this is his fourth entry - so a case of fourth time lucky for him. But, as usual, there is controversy - the eternal argument between - should the winner be a work of 'highbrown literature' or should it be ' a good read' - and can you combine the two?
There was an interesting programme on BBC2 last evening, when the six short-listed books were all taken to a tiny village in the Scottish Highlands and various inhabitants were invited to read them. I must say that it did not seem to me to be an 'ordinary' village: there were a lot of rather posh ladies in tartan and with double-barrelled names and several men in kilts - and there did seem an awful lot of so-called 'ordinary' folk willing to read these tomes. But it was
interesting and they voted on the winner, which was definitely not Julian Barnes.
The Times Literary Editor, Erica Wagner, has a good commentary on the prize, in which she asks whether the novels on the short list will stay the course and still be read in a couple of hundred years time. Of course none of us can answer that question but it is interesting to note that she quotes two contemporary reviews of books which have really stood the test of time and which are now seen as classics. They certainly were not seen that way at their time of publication. These are the two reviews:
Book a) "sad stuff, dull and dreary, or ridiculous."
b) "there seems to us great power in this book but a purposeless power, which we feel a great desire to see turned to better account."
Book a) is 'Moby Dick' and book b) is 'Wuthering Heights.'
Just goes to show that you never can tell. However, I would like to know what your general opinion is on the overall purpose of the Booker Prize - should it be a book we all enjoy or a book which takes a bit of getting through? You decide - after all you will none of you be here to know what happens to Julian Barnes's book in two hundred years, will you?