Thursday, January 03, 2008


I’ve been reading A Frolic of His Own, but, now on page 118, am finding it a slow plow. The writing is good, and sometimes comic, but the story fails to engage. I would like to finish it, some other time. Yesterday I picked up my mother’s copy of Schindler’s List, a book I’ve also long wanted to read. I walk by Oskar Schindler’s last residence, a seedy walk-up across from Frankfurt’s central train station, every day, and see his face there. A pair of beggars sleeps below the memorial plaque every night.

So, as long as I’m at it with Schindler, I’m going to join this Booker Prize reading challenge. The challenge is easy – read six Booker Prize winners, shortlisted or longlisted books in 2008. If you go to the Booker site, you can see the winners, and if you click on the book, you’ll see also the short lists and long lists. My choices are books I can get my hands on. I have some of them, and borrowed others from our office “library,” where a bunch of us share books. To be honest there are some other Booker books that I’d prefer to read, but that would involve a lot of Amazon shopping and shipping that I’m not ready to do.

Here’s my list of six, followed by some alternatives:
Schindler’s List by Thomas Kennealy – winner 1982
The Color of Blood by Brian Moore – shortlist 1987
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – winner 2006
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry – shortlist 1996
When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro – shortlist 2000
On Beauty by Zadie Smith – shortlist 2005
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel – winner 2002
Possession by AS Byatt – winner 1990
Any of the Iris Murdochs I haven’t already read

Here are the Booker Prize winners I’ve already read, favs asterisked:

Heat and Dust
by Ruth Prawer Jhablava
*The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
The History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
*Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
*The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
*Disgrace by JM Coetzee
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
How Late it Was, How Late by James Kelman
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje


Andrew Shields said...

Has Ishiguro had any other nominations? Because WWWO is his weakest book by far. "Never Let Me Go" and the first two, "A Pale View of Hills" and "An Artist of the Floating World," are at the level of "The Remains of the Day."

SarahJane said...

Never Let Me Go and An Artist of the Floating World were both shortlisted. I read the latter - was very good but not as good as Remains of the Day.
In terms of wins/noms, I feel the same way about McEwan's placing. Amsterdam was the worst of his books that I've read. Black Dogs and The Comfort of Strangers and even Saturday were superior to that one.

Andrew Shields said...

"An Artist of the Floating World" is a fabulous book to read a second time. I was stunned to discover that I had read it "backwards," as it were: the narrator is not like Stevens in "Remains," who is doing his best to deny that he was complicit in anything. Instead, the "artist of the floating world" is trying to get everybody to acknowledge his sense of complicity and guilt, but nobody else wants to let him do so, because that would mean having to acknowledge their own complicity.

And "A Pale View of Hills" is utterly astonishing.

michi said...

i am reading "on beauty" at the moment. have read "the life of pi" when everybody found it was a must-read ... if you read it, let me know what you think.

SarahJane said...

Andrew - I should read all the Ishiguros over again. Maybe I will.

Michi - I began both Life of Pi an Possession at one point and never finished. But both are so loudly lauded, that I figure it must just be me who's not getting it, which is why I may give them another shot. And if you're already into one of the Booker books, you might as well join the challenge. smile

Andrew Shields said...

The only ones I have not reread are "When We Were Orphans" (because I did not like it the first time) and "The Unconsoled" (because I have the feeling it would not make a good re-read, at least until a long time after the first read). All the other Ishiguros seriously reward rereading.

Ishiguro recently published some song lyrics on "Breakfast on the Morning Tram" by Stacey Kent.

michi said...

sarah - no book-buying for me at the moment, i'm afraid. :(

i thought that we had talked about life of pi briefly once before.

and hey, read nick hornby's polysyllabic spree - he gives up on books, and he makes you feel that it is definitely okay to do so. plus, it makes you want to max out your credit card on books and do nothing but read read read for months. :) (wrong book for me to read at the moment, eh? *g*)


S. Thomas Summers said...

interesting. i need to read more. read a lot of poetry, but comparatively not much fiction. perhaps this will hellp me. onward i trek,

hope you're well

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