The Davids have won over Goliaths. It may have been a shocker of a Booker shortlist, with usual suspect Peter Carey (twice Booker winner), bookies favourite David Mitchell (Black Swan Green) and highly-rated Howard Jacobson (Kalooki Nights), among others, all falling by the wayside, but arent we the better for it
Consider this (with apologies to the writers): Would we have heard of Canadian Yann Martel or Mexican-Australian DBC Pierre, an erstwhile conman, if it hadnt been for the Booker Both Life of Pi and Vernon God Little not only registered amazing sales post Booker Prize, the world was also introduced to two distinctive original voices. One tells the story of Piscine Molitor or Pi who grows up in a zoo in India and later finds himself adrift on the sea with, who else, but a Bengal tiger for company, the other takes a long, hard look at life in the heart of America. Commenting on Pierres book, the chairman of the judges in 2003, Professor John Carey, said it was a coruscating black comedy reflecting our alarm and fascination with modern America.
Defending the 2006 shocker, Hermione Lee, chair of judges, said, Each of these novels has what we as judges were most looking for, a distinctive original voice, an audacious imagination that takes readers to undiscovered countries of the mind, a strong power of story-telling and a historical truthfulness. Each of these novels creates a world you inhabit without question or distrust while you are reading, and a mood, an atmosphere, which lasts long after the reading is over.
As it turns out, each of the books on the shortlist is distinctive. While one goes back to World War II to spin a tale of love in the UK Sarah Waters Night Watch is a current favourite with the Bookies after Mitchell became a casualty another (Hisham Matars In the Country of Men) talks about growing up in Gaddafis Tripoli where his father disappeared. Then there is Edward St Aubyns account (Mothers Milk) of an illustrious Cornish family (his own), which is dysfunctional and disintegrating, Kate Grenvilles tale of a waterman on the Thames banished to harsh New South Wales in Australia, a grandfather/granddaughters kinship in Kalimpong (Kiran Desais The Inheritance of Loss) and M J Hylands Carry me Down about a fib-catcher who inevitably strays into danger. For now one can just wait for October 10 to find the chosen one amongst the best.