I'm talking at the London Literature Festival this coming Saturday:

To celebrate the shortlist for The Best of the Booker Prize, our distinguished panel of writers champion the novel they think should win. Featuring Edna O’Brien on JG Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur, Kamila Shamsie on Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Peter Kemp on Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road and Mark Thwaite on JM Coetzee’s Disgrace. Other guests discuss Nadine Gordimer’s TheConservationist and Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda. The panel read short extracts from the books, followed by their own critical appraisal. At the end of the evening the audience are asked to cast their vote.

Readers Comments

  1. You are championing the best book Mark. I'm sure you'll do it proud.

  2. I'm sure you did a great job for Coetzee, Mark...

    ...but I'm also sure you'd agree that the one genuinely great writer to have won the Booker is - hardly surprisingly - conspicuously absent from this list...namely, Jim Kelman. The idea that scribblers like Carey, or sensationalists like Rushdie, could be promoted over a writer of such serious intent, stylistic invention, and artistic integrity, as Kelman says all that needs to be said about the laughable state of British 'letters' in the 21st Century.

  3. Is it fair to describe Rushdie as a sensationalist? He's an iconic writer, and writes what is true for him and the mankind.

  4. Many artists become 'iconic' precisely because of their sensationalism. Rushdie may once have written about what was true to him - but, I suspect, not for a long time (unless it's a refracted truth of his craving for a 'celebrity' lifestyle). One way or the other, his dabblings with post-modernism do little to recommend him for stylistic authenticity or originality.

    Kelman, on the other hand, has spent nearly 40 years consistently seeking to find a voice for those who - for whatever reasons - have tended to be denied a voice in contemporary fiction, particularly in Britain. Perhaps he has not always been successful - "translated accounts" may be his most important work, but it defies reading - but when he is successful, as he has frequently been, the results are without equal in recent British fiction - not least the astonishing achievement of "Kieron Smith, Boy". This is a work which represents a comparable achievement to that of Bill Doglas in his 'Trilogy' (recently reissued in a handsome DVD package by the BFI). What is perhaps most striking is that, at this stage in his career, he is still responding to new, and ever more demanding, literary challenges.

  5. I'll defend Rushdie, at least for Shalimar the Clown, which I thought was fantastic and brought the Kashmir conflict alive for me in a way no news report or journalistic account ever has.

    I can't compare him with Kelman as I haven't read any: I'm not sure they should be compared anyway, and the judges of the Best of Booker have been put in a fairly unenviable position. What can they do but choose the six books they like best? No amount of critical rigour can gainsay the strange alchemy that sometimes occurs between book and reader.

    Ironically Kelman is being tipped for this year's Booker longlist for Kieron Smith, Boy.

  6. Mark,
    I attended the event last night and will not use the pun on disgrace to describe the outcome. Oh, I just did. No surprise that Rushdie - the de facto modern classic, for reasons unbeknown to me - topped the poll but the lack of support for Coetzee's towering effort was puzzling. Nothing to do with your witty and sharp defence of the novel, I'm sure.

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