The Sea, the sea by Irish Murdoch or What is wrong with the Booker.

Written after 28 of 502 pages.

Of course you are going to want to know why I’m not reading another page of this book. Of course, you are going to want to know why, should I ever find myself near to Murdoch – and I mean Iris, whose crimes against humanity already strike me as not so far away as you might think, from the other one’s – and should I have a loaded shooting device at hand, I will ask her, donning an insincere smile intending to look pacific, what the capital crime punishment is hereabouts. Of course I will be thinking exactly what you think I will be thinking.

Why? Because she fucking uses the words ‘of course’ all the time, of course.

Of course, of course….you’re going to raise the ‘but it isn’t her, it’s her character using the words’ argument, aren’t you? Well, some of you. Go away. I don’t want you to finish reading the rest of this. We could all do that, couldn’t we? Write crap in the first person and get it published. Of course, we could.

Get it published, did I say? Heck, we can do better than that. We can get it a Booker Prize. Big mistake. If I’d read the back cover, I never would have started this book. That’s the first thing about any book. Check that it hasn’t won the Booker…it hasn’t?…tick, read.

Of course, I’m not counting, but:

p. 24 Of course it is quite impossible to buy fresh fish…
p. 25 Of course they do not…..
p. 25 Of course the notion of growing herbs….
p. 27 Basil is of course the king of herbs
p. 28 And of course we acted plays too.
p. 28 Of course I loved my mother
p. 29 I went into the theatre of course…
p. 29 3 lines later, mark you: I had of course other motives.

For fuck’s sake. I wouldn’t even mind if we agreed it was hastily written trash. Maybe that’s what the Booker Prize is for?

But, of course, that isn’t what you are going to say, is it? And you know who you are. All fifteen or so of you. You’re going to talk about how carefully each word was selected by this skilled craftsman, this writer of literature. How she mulled over every word – for years, probably – picking at them, adding, subtracting, reconsidering. Of course she did.

I check the ‘about’ link on the Booker Prize, page: ‘The Man Booker Prize promotes the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year. The prize is the world’s most important literary award and has the power to transform the fortunes of authors and even publishers….’

Important, then. Maybe too important for merit to enter the equation. Or maybe this was just some seriously crap year for books.

‘The Man Booker judges are selected from the country’s finest critics, writers and academics to maintain the consistent excellence of the prize.’ Well, that’s okay, then. If that’s who selects the prize winner, we can sleep easy, as we are then reassured:

One of the main reasons for the Man Booker Prize’s pre-eminence in the world is the known integrity of its judging process. There has never been even a whisper of bribery or corruption or influence, as with other internationally known prizes….Every effort is made to achieve a balance between the judges of gender, articulacy and role, so that the panel includes a literary critic, an academic, a literary editor, a novelist and a major figure. Then, once they are appointed, they are in charge without the slightest interference from the administrator or the sponsor. From this has grown the total independence and balance that lies at the heart of the choices made. It is that which gives the Man Booker Prize its very special distinction among literary prizes the world over.

Being a compulsive researcher, I couldn’t just leave it there. What was so wrong with the books of 1978 that The sea, the sea got the BP guernsey?

Looking at the goodreads most popular list of books published in 1978 I see, for example,

Danielle Steele Now and Forever

Although Jessica and Ian Clarke have been married seven years, they insist the thrill and excitement haven’t dimmed. At Jessica’s urging, Ian has quit his advertising job to become a struggling writer, and she supports him with her successful San Francisco boutique.

Ian’s financial dependence on Jessica upsets him more than he admits, and in a moment of bored malaise, Ian’s first casual indiscretion will create a nightmare that threatens everything Jessica and Ian have carefully built. What he does changes their lives, and them, perhaps forever, as they struggle to pay the price of his foolhardy affair.

Sophie, in her review, gives these quotes:

The elevator let her out on the sixth floor, and all she knew was that she wanted to Ian. Suddenly she knew she could crawl through any amount of fear and anger, over a thousand puce satin pimps, just to get to Ian. -62

There was something, though. It surfaced at unexpected moments. A whisper of fear, almost terror. Sickness, perhaps? The loss of a breast? Astrid wondered but did not pry. -117

Jessie turned out the light and wiped two tears from her face. She felt the funny gold lima bean at her throat and tried to make herself smile, but she couldn’t. They were past laughing at lima beans now, past laughing at anything, and who knew–one day she might sell the lima bean too.-174

But I am growing now. Perhaps “up,” I don’t know yet. -298

It has romance, drama, breast, lima beans, self-reflection. Isn’t that enough to win a BP? And I bet it wasn’t even on the long list.

Then there is Johanna Lindsey Pirate’s Love

With languid tropical breezes caressing her breathtakingly beautiful face, Bettina Verlaine stood before the mast, sailing westward to fulfill a promise her heart never made–marriage to a Count her eyes had never beheld. Then in a moment of swashbuckling courage, the pirate Tristan swept her away and the spell of his passion was cast over her heart forever. But many days–and fiery nights–must pass before their love could flower into that fragile blossom a woman gives to only one man.

I observe a interesting difference of opinion on goodreads about this. There are those who think that the pirate’s constant raping of Betinna is not a good thing, while these are those who see straightforward romance and men just being men, I guess. There is the girl who absolutely straightfacedly said it was well worth the ten cents she paid for it.

Frankly, I’m with Nielam on this one who said:

hihihihi,aku suka banget buku ini…sejenis sama harlequin gitu tapi lebih make sense.soalnya it took times for the heroine bettina verlaine to eventually fall in love sama tristan.trus tristan itu bajak laut!!!how cool is that!(walau sebenarnya dia pelaut yang bekerja dibawah komandonya inggris sih,but still)

ngebayangin tristan kayaknya keren banget…mirip sama tokoh2 komiknya kyoko hikawa kali yaaa…tinggi besar menjulang.

jadi pengen baca buku johanna lindsey yang lain 🙂

thus stimulating an interesting comment exchange which you will excuse my not introducing here.

And what about Erich Segal Oliver’s Story???

Sequel to Love Story. Two years after losing the love of his life, Oliver feels he will never love again–should never love again. Then, one day he meets a beautiful and mysterious woman.

The plot line alone should have put this on the short list, if that is, the BP is as impartial as they would have us believe.

‘There has never been even a whisper of bribery or corruption or influence?’ Hello Booker Prize. That claim can stop right now. Read this review and weep.

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