Erika Wagner’s article in today’s Times begins with the immortal words,
“Last time I checked, there are a lot of books about Asian sisters didn’t really count as literary criticism.”
Said by Daisy Goodwin, one of the judges of this year’s Orange Prize, who is fed up with reading novels concerning the exploits of Asian sisters, this made me laugh. It comes a couple of days after the debate opened up by Sara Crowley, albeit unwittingly, on her blog, (HERE and the post above this one) about ‘cultural tourism’. Sadly, people seemed intent on being grievously offended in that discussion, and needed to wave their subtexts in the air.
The Times, brave souls, risks the wrath of the ‘grievously offended’, and pokes fun at the current fashion for books peopled by Asian sisters. And there are obviously rather a lot about. Must admit, I hadn’t stumbled over any, yet, and The Times doesn’t exactly make me want to seek them out, either.
But the article moves on, far more interestingly, to why novels that make the reader laugh, are not winners of the literary prizes, when they are good stuff, well written, and hard to get right.
“I think the misery memoir has had its day, but there are an awful lot of books out there which had not a shred of redemption in them,”That is thought provoking. So much is in the eye of the reader – plenty of intelligent, astute readers loathe McCarthy’s The Road, and find it unremittingly bleak. I didn’t – I found it a hymn to the human spirit, tenacity in the face of annihilation. But there you go – it takes all sorts, thank goodness.
“Comic novels — let’s call them terrific novels that happen to be funny — tend to fall through the cracks, especially where prizes are concerned. Publishers have to choose which books from their list to submit for a prize such as the Orange: is a book that makes a reader laugh really worthy of a prize?”
The article, HERE, makes good reading. And concludes with a list of Erika Wagner’s top ten comic novels:
Erika Wagner's Top Ten comic novels:
What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Headlong by Michael Frayn
The Believers by Zoe Heller
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
Deaf Sentence by David Lodge
Moo by Jane Smiley
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
I could add anything by Tom Sharp, Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat. Any more?