Archive for September, 2013

Darcy’s Death is Pants

September 30th, 2013

A pall was thrown across the literary world last week with the shocking and untimely passing of Mr. Mark Darcy. A preview of Helen Fielding’s new book Mad About the Boy – the third in the Bridget Jones canon – has revealed that the object of Ms. Jones’ affections, and of many thousands of women around the world, succumbed in the period between the second and third book. The cause is unknown.


Grieving Bridget Jones fans took to social media to express their anguish at the loss. “Noooo! Not Mark Darcy!” wrote Fiona Ufton. Max_Normal was rather less plaintive: “RIP #Darcy ya fop.”

It does seem a rather extreme way of clearing the path for Roxster, the 29 year old toy-boy who is to be Bridget’s squeeze in the new book. Couldn’t Mark and Bridget simply have got a divorce? I suppose it is probably more convenient that he dies. It’s a clean break, stops him from cropping up later and causing mischief.

Or perhaps there are other forces at work. Perhaps, like the rest of us, Fielding has been tearing her way through the Game of Thrones series and delighting in the way George R.R. Martin leaves the path strewn with the mutilated corpses of our favourite characters.

Many things separate Ms. Fielding’s writing from that of Mr. R.R. Martin, but the important difference here is that the latter never promises happily ever after. The Game of Thrones series declares from the very first page, loudly and violently, the impossibility of a fairy-tale ending. We expect a high body count, so when R.R. Martin gives us one we accept it because he is simply following through.

But Fielding did write a fairytale, and the princess got the prince. So the fact that they haven’t continued getting exponentially happy in our absence is… well, it’s just poor form.



Battle of the Book Prizes

September 23rd, 2013

It was announced this week that, as of 2014, American authors will be eligible for the Man Booker Prize. Up until now the prize has been open only to authors holding a British, Irish, Commonwealth or Zimbabwean passport; it will now be open to any author writing in English and published in the UK.

The submission rules have also been amended, allowing more entries to publishers that have previously had books longlisted.

The decision had been met with a mixed reaction. Previous winner Howard Jacobson spoke out against it, as did one of this year’s nominees, Jim Crace, who commented in the Telegraph that “There’s something in there you would lose if you opened it up to American authors.”

It has been argued that opposition to the decision presented by authors comes from a place of fear, and that by allowing some American authors into the mix will shine a light on those complacent English novelists whose writing is diminishing in quality but are still managing to find their way onto the list. There certainly have been those who have bemoaned a decline in the Booker winners in recent years, and perhaps not without cause. Julian Barnes’ brevity in The Sense of an Ending, for which he won the prize in 2011 felt like a false economy. He is a great writer, but it’s not a great book.

But this seems to beg the question as to who these changes will actually benefit. Is the pressure from across the pond going to make our authors write better books? It seems an unlikely source of inspiration. Is it going to help readers in the U.K. pick the best new American fiction? We already have the Pulitzer to tell us that.

One party that it will certainly benefit is the Booker Prize itself. Jonathon Taylor, chairman of trustees, said: “By including writers from around the world to compete alongside Commonwealth and Irish writers, the Man Booker Prize is reinforcing its standing as the most important literary award in the English-speaking world.”

Well bully for them. This comment shows that something greater is at stake. It seems that the competition is not to find the best book, but the best prize. And the Booker is determined to win.