The Man Booker Prize is given every year to an Irish/British writer. Looking over the archive, I see I haven’t read most of the list, which dates back to 1969. Of what I have read, the books fall into two easy categories: love and hate. I loved God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I hated The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (although I adore everything else she’s ever written). Although I’m not qualified to discuss Disgrace, by J M Coetzee, because I did not finish it, I didn’t finish it because I couldn’t face the idea of reading past the first chapter. The pick of 2006, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, is also firmly in that latter category.
I obtained the book sometime last year, expecting to like it. I’d heard some buzz about it and was influenced by the knowledge that Ms. Desai’s mother–Anita Desai–had written one of the most beautiful short stories ever about a children’s game of hide-and-seek, a story that expressed the biggest of dissapointments in the smallest of worlds. Unfortunately, while that dissapointment was delicious, my dissapointment in The Inheritance of Loss was simply frustrating.
This is what I wrote on GoodReads upon completing it:
too beautifully written–the prose was all this book had going for it. it was always elevated though, there was no breathing room, no fitting the language to the moment. EVERYTHING was momentous. new elements were being introduced right up until the end, too, so that nothing was able to gather meaning over the course of the book (besides the mountain–that did work). also, there was no narrative drive whatsoever. time skipped around in a way that diminished any momentum darjeeling’s mounting political unrest could have provided. the most interesting subplot, that of a poor cook’s son who left for america, got lost in the thousand other story lines. there is probably a great book buried deep inside this one that i would much rather have read.
I copy this here because I am giving the Man Booker Prize another shot. I started reading The Gathering by Anne Enright a few days ago, carting it around with me on the train, to work, to a check-up. At said check-up, I left the book on the counter and traveled halfway back to Queens before realizing it. Am I loving the book enough that I turned around to get it? No. Am I sorely missing having it tucked into my purse to read during my free moments? Yes.
My doctor’s receptionist, who called to let me know she was holding it, left this on my voicemail: “I know how upsetting this must be when you just want to know what happens next.”
If she had gotten me, rather than my voicemail, I would have said that it isn’t what happens next that I need to know, but what happened already. Ms. Enright is certainly talented at skirting around things, writing the reader into this drowsy place where nothing is solid, everything detatched and whispy.
So, this week, either I will venture back to that farway Manhattan neighborhood to pick up my copy (well, Jamie’s copy) or I will borrow another one in the meantime. I am anxious–as, I’m sure, are you–to discover which category it will fall into.
P.S. I see on the website that the 2008 winner was announced in October–Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger. Has anyone read it?