Wednesday, 19 October 2011
On last night's BBC News, our old friend Will Gompertz - ever the dangerous outsider, a man living on the edge, playing by his own rules - reported from the black-tie Booker Prize dinner in his trademark open-to-the-chest shirt and jeans (let's hope he'd been thrown out and was standing in the street). He brought us the shock news (hem hem) that Julian Barnes had won, at the fourth attempt, with The Sense of an Ending, a work described by the chair of the judges, Dame Stella Rimington, as 'a beautifully written book that speaks to humankind in the 21st century'. Martin Amis was unavailable for comment... Our Will delivered his usual string of consensual banalities, and played us a dispiriting clip of Barnes reading from his masterwork - but Gompertz's report included one interesting tidbit: all six of this year's Booker finalists were written in the first person. Why is it that today's novelists are so helplessly attracted to the first-person mode? Is it that they daren't risk the distancing effect (however slight) of the third person? Do they believe it is more 'vivid'? Is it a publisher's fad? Or is it just that, for a writer of limited imaginative powers, the first person is just, well, easier?