I’ve just finished reading one of the Booker shortlisted novels and thought it was so good and so original that it should win but probably won’t! The novel is Aravind Adiga’s White tiger and it is a mix of social commentary, black comedy and original aspects that are entirely its own. The novel is told in the form of a letter to the Chinese premier from an Indian social entrepreneur and it outlines how he rose from being the humble son of a rickshaw driver whose family originated from the rural poor.
The whole book is like an amoral fable in that the main character gets to where he is (running a company who provide drivers for the workers in the I.T. companies that service the first world from the anonymity of the third) by blackmail, graft, working in with the corrupt police force and even murder. It is funny and touching at the same time and any illusions people have get knocked about as the book rattles along at a fast pace.
Will it win? One of the other novels on the list which I’ve read, Steve Toltz’s A fraction of the whole, although bloated in its length, can give this a run for its money in sheer exuberance and originality.
Familiar with the literary fiction versus genre fiction debate? It’s been running forever and a day, at the recent Christchurch Writers Festival dear Mark Billingham got quite vexed on the subject, he also name-checked Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith as a crime fiction title that had managed to span the great “high/low culture” divide and gain acclaim, most notably as a long-listed Man Booker nomination.
So how looking forward to that was I? Well, champing at the bit and how disappointed … massively. The early chapters were gripping, starting with Stalin’s forced famine in the Ukraine, the almost comical perversion of Communist ideology and the first of a number of grisly, heart rending murders but the central character Leo and his beautiful but aloof wife Raisa never came to life. After lots of frenetic racing around, dead-ends, red herrings and a bewilderingly enormous cast of characters, the final denouement was satisfying but a little Hollywood. In fact the book felt ready for a film treatment, Keira Knightley trout-pouting as Raisa and maybe her squeeze Rupert Friend as Leo Demidov, the handsome disillusioned war hero.
I think I’ll stick to Le Carre, Alan Furst or Robert Harris for energetic and emotive thrillers
I remember as a toddler my daughter getting her own personalised book. Her name was rather badly copied over the the top of the generic text, and the girl in the story was blond and blue eyed. It was all rather cute, fairly banal, but she loved it.
The publishing industry has now gone a few steps further and has reached out to adult readers. You can go to sites such as U star novels, and intergrate yourself and your loved one into your very own romance novel. The mind boggles. If you prefer something a bit tamer then UK at home (a rather lovely book we have in the library) shows you how to add your own photo onto the cover of the book. It is then printed and whisked your way to add to the collection on the coffee table to surprise family and friends.
For a while now Doring Kindersley travel have had the capacity for travellers to choose the attractions they want to include in a personalised travel guide. You can upload the data and include your own cover photo. Much easier than carrying round a heavy tome filled with places you will never visit.
I also quite like My football year. For football (or soccer fans) this is the ultimate. Choose your favourite team, get all the information – statistics, photos etc and then if you choose, write your own commentary about the season. Printed in colour and again ideal for the coffee table this is sent to your door at the end of the season. What more could a football fan ask for?