thu 24/08/2017

A Culture Show Special: The Books We Really Read, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

A Culture Show Special: The Books We Really Read, BBC Two

A Culture Show Special: The Books We Really Read, BBC Two

What the popular bestseller can teach the literary novel. Apparently

Sue Perkins, a self-confessed 'literary snob' is fed up with 'plotless' literary novels

Unlike Sue Perkins, I’ve never sat on the Booker Prize judging panel. So I’ve never had the dubious pleasure of wading through 130-plus contemporary “literary” novels, of supremely variable quality, in a supremely short space of time (it’s approximately a novel a day, I’ve heard, given the allocated time). But still, I was left somewhat puzzled by the Culture Show special, The Books We Really Read, because Perkins – who was a Booker Prize judge in 2009 and is yet to recover from the experience – comes to a conclusion I found slightly odd.

Many “literary” writers who self-consciously think of themselves as literary writers, often just aren’t that good

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This review only seems to give half the story of the programme, which seemed to have been scripted by someone who was so hung-up on plot that the documentary tried to take Perkins on her own mini-Odyssey. She was dreadfully snobbish (in the sort of inverted self-deprecating way that showed she really meant it) about having read English at Oxford and judged the Booker at the start of the programme. I thought after a few minutes that the inevitable conclusion was that she would report on her own personal journey of partial conversion and redemption from her own high-mindedness about the trash she was going to investigate. And that's what we got. If you're going to criticise literary fiction then plot is a pretty tame thing to go for. Absence of a conventional plot or narrative is something of a badge of pride -- see the comments at the end of the 12 debut novelist programme about how only one book used third person omniscient narration. Like so many current documentaries you wonder why on earth we had to have this intrusive personality stamping their ego all over it. It really wasn't necessary.

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