Posts tagged with "booker prize" - Faerye Net 2013-05-27T19:37:06+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Bring Up the Bodies 2013-05-27T19:37:06+00:00 2013-06-03T03:55:34+00:00 <p>I am off series books. It&#8217;s been so for a time: my &#8216;to-read&#8217; list on Goodreads is a shocking 260 books long, and might be longer if I hadn&#8217;t preserved it by the expedient of a &#8216;to-maybe-read&#8217; list. Series addiction would send the thing spiralling out of control.</p> <p>But here I am, finishing <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9781250024176'>Book Two</a> and <em>chafing</em> for the next. How did I get here? (Besides the exemption in my series fear for audiobooks, that is!) I have a sneaking fondness for <a href="" target="links">Booker winners</a>, so I was curious about Hilary Mantel&#8217;s <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780312429980'><em>Wolf Hall</em></a> already. The only thing I knew about it other than its Bookerness was that it and its sequel, <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9781250024176'><em>Bring Up the Bodies</em></a>, were about the reign of Henry <span class="caps">VIII</span>.</p> <p>Now, I was rather interested in the history of the Tudors as a child, due largely to feminist-schoolgirl awe of Queen Elizabeth, but also due to morbid-schoolgirl fascination with messy history. I didn&#8217;t even realize at the time what messy history Henry <span class="caps">VIII</span> was following! Now, Henry&#8217;s story, his desperate quest for a legitimate male heir, seems to me haunted and beset by that of Edward IV, whose legally flawed marriage(s) created such a succession crisis. (See Josephine Tey&#8217;s <em><a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780684803869'>The Daughter of Time</a></em> if you need convincing that Edward IV&#8217;s overactive tendency to put a ring on it, not any evil of Richard III&#8217;s, overthrew his little son.) Anyway, I had a very shallow sort of knowledge of Henry VIII&#8217;s reign, just enough to school my family in &#8220;Divorced, Beheaded, Died&#8230;&#8221; and explain which queen was which when we visited England when I was 13. In college I learned a bit more by taking a class on Medieval and Tudor History of England.</p> <p>I never went in for the recent fad on Tudors, however. There&#8217;ve been some very successful book series and movie adaptations as well as the <span class="caps">HBO</span> &#8220;Tudors&#8221;, but I couldn&#8217;t summon much interest. Elizabeth, after all, is appealing to me &#8212; complicated, cagy, iconoclastic and independent. Henry <span class="caps">VIII</span>? Choleric, wife-killing Henry? Just a stage-setter, an interesting little soap opera backstory for my heroine. So it&#8217;s possible I came at <em>Wolf Hall</em> with precisely the right degree of ignorance and knowledge: broad background in the Wars of the Roses and the Reformation, enough knowledge of the course of Henry&#8217;s marriages to appreciate foreshadowing and see the other shoe about to drop, but enough ignorance to be constantly surprised.</p> <p>Mantel has chosen her hero so well: Thomas Cromwell, a low-born but brilliant man who rose to stand at Henry&#8217;s right hand. I haven&#8217;t read up on what&#8217;s known of his life yet (that might mean <span class="caps">SPOILERS</span>!) but he is a wonderful character for a smart, thoughtful novel (or two, or please soon, three!) on Henry VIII&#8217;s struggle for an heir. He&#8217;s an outsider but not: born in England but educated all over Europe. This allows him to see Tudor English customs as non-transparent, to show them to us and remark on them, without losing any credibility as a character truly of his age. He isn&#8217;t blindered and constrained to the life of the court, so this isn&#8217;t the familiar, gossipy soap-opera version of Henry VIII&#8217;s court intrigues.</p> <p>Thomas&#8217;s life story is interesting, and his upwards social trajectory is appealing to a modern reader who is unlikely to believe in the divine right to rule or the intrinsic superiority of noble blood. His background in Europe and his interest in the Tyndale Gospel and the reformation of the Church make Thomas a big-picture thinker. And somehow, despite my semester of Medieval and Tudor history, this big picture is one that hadn&#8217;t really sunk in. Henry&#8217;s desperate need for an heir (and obligatory assumption that the fault was in his women, <a href="" target="links">not in him</a>) was not only a catalyst but an <em>opportunity</em> for many. Henry&#8217;s easily mocked desire to cast off his first/brother&#8217;s wife constituted a huge challenge to papal authority at a time when many were already chafing to throw off Rome&#8217;s yoke. Thomas Cromwell, early (and secret) Protestant, smuggler of banned texts, reader of the Gospel in English, is the perfect character to lead us through this foment. This is not just about Henry&#8217;s heir or Henry&#8217;s bed: this is the end of the Medieval. This is the cusp of a new world.</p> <p>Mantel writes beautifully but often simply. Her style here, third person present and relentlessly Cromwell-focused (until the second book, she routinely uses &#8216;he&#8217; to refer to Cromwell whether or not there has been another masculine antecedent, which can be a trifle confusing,) serves the story well, lending immediacy to these centuries-old events. The narrative inhabits Cromwell so thoroughly that his asides, his incidental associations, become part of the fabric. His memories, images or words, bob back up in my consciousness a week after finishing the book, as they bob back up throughout the first and second book. I can&#8217;t wait to hear his voice again in the third.</p> <p>Also, how sinister and wonderful is the <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9781250024176'>second book</a>&#8217;s title? Bring up the bodies, bring up the bodies, bring up the bodies&#8230;</p> The Booker and other Prize Reading 2008-09-29T21:36:38+00:00 2008-09-29T21:55:26+00:00 <p>I was a little surprised the other day, perigrinating <a href="" target="links">Powell&#8217;s City of Books</a>, to run across an Award Winner section. Maybe they had this before, but it&#8217;s certainly noticeable now, and features free bookmarks with lists of winners of the Pulitzer for Fiction, the National Book Award, et cetera. Then, of course, there were shelves and shelves of the books. I took a quick look and realized that I&#8217;ve read very few <span class="caps">NBA</span> winners, very few Pulitzers. What I do read is Bookers.</p> <ul><li>1981 Salman Rushdie, <em>Midnight&#8217;s Children</em> (on my to-read list)</li> <li>1982 Thomas Keneally, <em>Schindler&#8217;s Ark</em> (aka <em>Schindler&#8217;s List</em>, <b>read</b>)</li> <li>1983 J. M. Coetzee <em>Life &amp; Times of Michael K</em></li> <li>1984 Anita Brookner <em>Hotel du Lac</em></li> <li>1985 Keri Hulme, <em>the bone people</em></li> <li>1986 Kingsley Amis, <em>The Old Devils</em></li> <li>1987 Penelope Lively, <em>Moon Tiger</em></li> <li>1988 Peter Carey, <em>Oscar and Lucinda</em> (<b>read</b>)</li> <li>1989 Kazuo Ishiguro, <em>The Remains of the Day</em> (<b>read</b>)</li> <li>1990 A. S. Byatt, <em>Possession: A Romance</em> (<b>read</b>)</li> <li>1991 Ben Okri, <em>The Famished Road</em></li> <li>1992 Michael Ondaatje, <em>The English Patient</em> (<b>read</b>)</li> <li>1992 Barry Unsworth, <em>Sacred Hunger</em></li> <li>1993 Roddy Doyle, <em>Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha</em></li> <li>1994 James Kelman, <em>How Late It Was, How Late</em></li> <li>1995 Pat Barker, <em>The Ghost Road</em></li> <li>1996 Graham Swift, <em>Last Orders</em></li> <li>1997 Arundhati Roy, <em>The God of Small Things</em> (<b>read</b>)</li> <li>1998 Ian McEwan, <em>Amsterdam</em></li> <li>1999 J. M. Coetzee, <em>Disgrace</em></li> <li>2000 Margaret Atwood, <em>The Blind Assassin</em> (<a href="" target="links"><b>read</b></a>)</li> <li>2001 Peter Carey, <em>True History of the Kelly Gang</em> (<b>read</b>)</li> <li>2002 Yann Martel, <em>Life of Pi</em> (on my to-read list)</li> <li>2003 <span class="caps">DBC</span> Pierre, <em>Vernon God Little</em></li> <li>2004 Alan Hollinghurst, <em>The Line of Beauty</em></li> <li>2005 John Banville, <em>The Sea</em></li> <li>2006 Kiran Desai, <em>The Inheritance of Loss</em></li> <li>2007 Anne Enright, <em>The Gathering</em></li></ul> <p>Now, obviously I haven&#8217;t read the majority of these, the Booker Winners in my lifetime. But that&#8217;s a lot more than I&#8217;ve read of the Pulitzer Winners or <span class="caps">NBA</span> Winners since 1981.</p> <p>But another thing I notice is that the ones I&#8217;ve read are from 2001 and earlier. Of the more recent novels, the only one that sounds familiar &#8212; even having looked at shelves of Booker Winners just over a week ago &#8211; is <em>The Gathering</em>, and I couldn&#8217;t tell you the first thing about it. It takes a long time for books to come to my attention. Because of this, I am always amazed at how up-to-the-minute some readers are. I&#8217;m still trying to catch up on all the books I didn&#8217;t have time to read during grad school, a few classics I feel a dunce for not having read, any number of modern sci-fi works because my sci-fi reading was guided by a member of a previous generation. How do people manage to have read most or all of the <a href="" target="links">Booker shortlist</a> in time to have strident opinions about it? (The Booker&#8217;s juried, so their opinions are just that.) Are they all librarians and booksellers, book critics and Lit professors, so that it&#8217;s part of their job to know what&#8217;s coming out and whether they should read it? My way of reading is more haphazard, more organic. I gather suggestions and sometimes act on them immediately, sometimes wait for more information or opinions. I don&#8217;t buy many hardbacks and I borrow things from the library, on the whole, for which I don&#8217;t have to wait on a list.</p> <p>I suppose the reason I&#8217;m faintly nervous about this topic is that I recently lurked on a forum discussion about <span class="caps">SFWA</span> members and the Nebulas. (<span class="caps">SFWA</span> is the <a href="" target="links">Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America</a>. Active members can recommend works in the various <a href="" target="links">categories</a> for the preliminary ballot and vote on the preliminary ballot, which determines the final ballot that goes to judges.) Basically, the gist was that <span class="caps">SFWA</span> members aren&#8217;t active enough in recommending stories, and sometimes vote based on notoriety if they haven&#8217;t read the works. I&#8217;d like to be a full <span class="caps">SFWA</span> member someday (I am becoming a <del>junior</del> Associate Member <em>as we speak</em>) and I worry. I want to be diligent and do my civic duty (as a citizen of the galaxy). Am I going to have to be up-to-the-minute? Buy hardbacks, wait on library lists? Shove my half-read classics and obscure nonfiction reading aside to tackle the latest and greatest? But, then, I suppose, if I get to be an Active Member, doing the diligence will be <em>part of my job</em> too. Maybe I worry too much, because I feel like that would make me more proud than put upon.</p>