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Vote for your favorite Booker Prize winner

Posted by Joshua Glenn  April 28, 2008 08:47 PM

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Great Britain's Man Booker Prize, which is awarded annually for the best original novel, devoid of humor but crammed with quality vocabulary words, and written in English by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly known as the British Empire) or the Republic of Ireland, turns 40 this year. Now one hears that a panel of judges was appointed to choose the best overall novel to have won the prize since P.H. Newby snagged it for his 1968 Cold War thriller "Something to Answer For."

As tough as this task sounds, it's made even tougher by the fact that the Booker Prize has rarely been awarded to a novelist for his or her best effort. It's like the Lifetime Achievement Oscar, only for literature. How do you choose between, say, Iris Murdoch's "The Sea, The Sea" (perhaps her fifth-best book) and "The Blind Assassin," Margaret Atwood's worst?

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Oh, well. Not that anyone has asked, but I'm casting my vote for Kingsley Amis's "The Old Devils" (1986). Not Amis's best, but at least it's a hoot.

Here's the full list:

1969. Something to Answer For by PH Newby

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1970. The Elected Member by Bernice Rubens

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1971. In a Free State by VS Naipaul

1972. G by John Berger

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1973. The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell

1974. Holiday by Stanley Middleton (shared)

1974. The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer (shared)

1975. Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

1976. Saville by David Storey

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1977. Staying On by Paul Scott

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1978. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

1979. Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

1980. Rites of Passage by William Golding

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1981. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

1982. Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally

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1983. Life & Times of Michael K by JM Coetzee

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1984. Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

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1985. The Bone People by Keri Hulme

1986. The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis

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1987. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

1988. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

1989. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

1990. Possession by A.S. Byatt

1991. The Famished Road by Ben Okri

1992. Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth (shared)

1992. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (shared)

1993. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

1994. How late it was, how late by James Kelman

1995. The Ghost Road by Pat Barker

1996. Last Orders by Graham Swift

1997. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

1998. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

1999. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

2000. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

2001. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

2002. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

2003. Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

2004. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

2005. The Sea by John Banville

2006. Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

2007. The Gathering by Anne Enright

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3 comments so far...
  1. This is a toughie, Midnight's Children is great but nowhere near as good as The Satanic Verses. Rushdie is pretty hilarious as well, so that's a nice bonus as I agree that humor is underrepresented in prestigious award winners. On the other hand, it won a special Booker as the best novel of the last 25 years a while back, so I think it's been honored enough. I recently read The God of Small Things and Inheritance of Loss and thought they were excellent, although I preferred Inheritance of loss. Life of Pi was nice but not really a great novel by any means. I've never read anything by Kingsley Amis though, so I will have to check him out.

    Posted by Michael Rapaport April 30, 08 12:20 PM
  1. Well, if you focus on ones the Booker "got right", wasn't _Offshore_ arguably Fitzgerald's best work at the time it was awarded? I say this even though I'd give the (small) edge to _The Bookshop_. It is also a shame they can't just go back and admit some mistakes. JG Farrell's _Troubles_ should be better known than _The Siege of Krishnapur_, and it is the real reason for Farrell's Booker anyway. Good on NYRB books for republishing the entire trilogy.

    Anon

    Posted by Anon May 6, 08 12:43 PM
  1. midnight's children was lovely but there is no comparison to hulme's 'the bone people'. 'the bone people' is a beautiful, raw read. i absolutely love it.

    Posted by macho kid August 22, 08 12:15 AM
 
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