Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Storm at Sea - Banville and the Booker

The victory of John Banville in the annual Booker debacle has been greeted with less than universal acclaim. Certain sections of the London literary media have been less than fulsome in their praise - some even suggesting that it's a disaster for the Booker. This is of course nonsense - Roddy Doyle winning it was a disaster for the Booker; Banville is the most deserving victor since the last time Coetzee won it. It's a victory for art over ephemeral writing (Zadie Smith et al).

The reasons for the lack of enthusiasm are probably twofold. Julian Barnes was the warm favourite and is well got with the London literary mafia. He seems like a very nice man and I'll bow to none in my admiration for "Flaubert's Parrot". He would have been a very popular winner. Another darling of literary London, Ian McEwan was recently critically roasted by Banville in the NYRB for his 9/11 novel "Saturday". Must try harder was the master's verdict. The chairman of the Booker panel John Sutherland came to McEwan's defence in the letters page of the NYRB and he too felt the full blast of Banville's blow torch. Imagine then the piquancy of the situation where Sutherland was put in the position of giving the casting vote. His magnaminity in giving Banville the nod does him great credit.