Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Julian Barnes wins the 2011 Man Booker Prize with "The Sense of an Ending"


As you may have heard already, Julian Barnes won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for his excellent novel/novella The Sense of an Ending. After a bit of reflection, this is without a doubt who the winner should have been. Sure, it's not the most fun title on the shortlist (that would Jamrach's, and I still stand by all my support of the book), but really, The Sense of an Ending showcases the most literary mastery of the lot. It's a book where every word counts, where every sentence is a tightly wound around a simple and devastating core.

Here's a signed copy of the first UK edition of the book. Take a look at the black edges--a well-placed design element that perfectly matches the book's somber tone.


And here's a shot of Barnes's surprisingly modest signature:


Those of you who were able to snag a reasonably priced signed copy ($20 for this one) will be pleased to know that these are fetching close to $150 dollars on eBay. Timing is always tricky with this sort of thing--too late and you might miss the rush, but list it too soon and you might not get as much money as you could.

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...it's been a strange Booker year. A lot of bad attitude emerged, and much of it, in my opinion, is from a reasonable place. The question of "readability" has come up with the suspicion that Booker judges have leaned towards this concept in lieu of true literary merit. When the longlist was announced, I felt this year's picks were similar to this rush of "mature" alternative and genre fiction that we've all endured these past few years in television and film. This was the comics-and-True Blood longlist... but as a fan of such things, I met these selections with open arms. Were these picks especially readable? Sure. But, do they represent the acme of literature from the British Commonwealth?

Well, I don't know the answer to this. As a US reader, nearly all these titles were new to me. I've deeply enjoyed following this list, and I think there's something to be said for that... but are these the best of the best? I've no idea. Since I'm not directly tuned into British literature, this is what I've got to go on... if it weren't for the longlist, it's likely I wouldn't have heard of any of these novels. The list of authors I've discovered through Booker nominations is pretty exciting: Sebastian Barry, Tom McCarthy, Howard Jacobson, John Banville... the marketing behind these guys is fairly minimal here in the States, so I'm very grateful to have found them through the various longlists they've graced.

This week, a new prize was announced called the "Literature Prize" and it hopes to counter the Booker by awarding "quality and ambition" over readability. Perhaps a little petty, but I see this new prize as nothing but a good thing--this will only spread the word of more great books that US readers might miss.

I don't really care to see whatever glaring difference there is between future Booker Prize and Literature Prize winners, because, as an avid reader, I have winners of my own. Last year, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet took my prize, and this year (despite Barnes's best efforts) that award goes to Jamrach's Menagerie. Because, really, all these awards are a matter of opinion and I surely have a few myself.

If there's anything to be upset about, it's over whatever titles are excluded from the longlist. This is where the real introductions occur, and where readers like me find new books.

Congratulations to Julian Barnes and The Sense of an Ending. I hope readers out there pick this one. Barnes deserves it. But I really hope Booker interest in the US doesn't end with that--I want to see Jamrach's and The Sisters Brothers out there just as much.

Currently reading:
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Currently listening to:
The Marshmallow Ghosts S/T LP

1 comment:

  1. The Sense of an Ending - Beautifully written, striking and deep.

    It book is about truth and perception, facts and memories, what happens and what we choose to remember what happens. The book moves through the memories of Tony Webster. Having lived a fairly ‘mediocre’ life, a letter from a solicitor takes him back in time. He reminisces his past, analyzing events. Memories are fragments of time we choose to believe, see or remember. Memories can be deceptive. Tony finds out how..

    It’s a wonderful book..

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