Sunday, 2 August 2009
'Reading' and Reading
We are told that the Man Booker Prize judges have, in less than seven months, 'read' 132 novels. Am I alone in finding it somewhat unlikely that these busy public figures have found time in their lives to read something like five novels a week? I don't think I'd be able to manage that even if I devoted every waking hour to it - and if I did, what would I have achieved, apart from a feat of endurance? I certainly wouldn't remember anything much (if anything at all) of the endless book blur whizzing past my tired eyes. I've written before about reading and forgetting - and this morning, on the radio, the excellent Craig Brown spoke with commendable candour on his own literary amnesia, freely admitting that he remembered only the odd snippet, if anything, of books he had read - and reviewed! - the previous week. The Booker pretence of having read and remembered such a ludicrous number of books (and it grows larger every year) gets more and more absurd. The truth is that the judges will have skimmed most of them, made up their minds pretty fast on which titles not to proceed with, maybe revisited a few in the course of the whittling down process. None of these novels will have been properly digested - still less enjoyed - in the way of a book read at leisure, at the reader's own speed. For this reason, no doubt, many a good title - one that demands to be properly, fully read - slips through the net, and many a less good one ends up on the shortlist. This is to say nothing of the vagaries of panel discussion, which can throw up the most unlikely winners. Never mind - at least this year Me Cheeta made the longlist. That's a book I'd recommend anyone to read. At leisure.