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How to Win the Man Booker Prize
on 16 August 2014
How to Win the Man Booker Prize:
1. Choose a subject with some serious human rights implications or moral dilemmas.
2. Arbitrarily switch between narrating in the present tense and the past tense.
3. Use commonplace words but give then a different meaning that only emerges as the book progresses.
4. Use a previously unknown punctuation convention, for example hyphens instead of quotation marks to indicate speech.
5. Use flashback and flash forward as frequently as is feasible.
6. Use personal pronouns instead of characters' names to heighten the mystery.
7. Begin or end each section with a quote from an obscure source, preferably printed in italics.
8. Run sections of dialogue together without indicating who is speaking so that the reader can have the fun of trying to work it out.
9. Never explain anything, because by the end of the novel every significant event will have been absorbed by the reader through osmosis.
10. Be brief, remember that two short novels will sell for twice as much as one long one.
11. Do not make any of the characters likable.
12. Drift in and out of what is actually happening and what is running through the protagonists' minds without differentiation.
13. Do not tell a story as such but rather reveal a related set of circumstances by degrees.
14. Make sure that every twentieth "sentence" has no verb or is otherwise grammatically incorrect.
If this style of writing appeals to you then you will enjoy Nadine Gordimer's "The Conservationist". If, on the other hand, like me you find it pretentious and irritating, I suggest you give it a wide berth.
There is very little story, but what there is takes place in South Africa in the 1950's and concerns rich white people living alongside poor black people. The best parts are where the author tells a short story for a page or two. Unfortunately, these are connected by rambling passages of barely comprehensible stream of consciousness text from the main character's brain. It was so difficult to read that I found myself going back to see if I had misread something or accidentally turned over two pages at once.
I almost gave up on several occasions but considered that it would be unfair to criticise a book that I had not finished. I am at a loss to explain how this book can hove won a prestigious literary prize. To me there is a suggestion of the emperor's new clothes.