Captain Moonlight: Booker Prize Warning

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The Independent Online
BOOKER Prize Warning: shortlist announced tomorrow. Hype going very well so far. First, judge fails to reveal that novelist under discussion is his wife. Shock. Sunday Times screams. Judge quotes Balzac and examines novel and navel in Guardian. Next, chairman of judges declares task has been an ordeal and that modern fiction 'at best ambitious and at worst pretentious'. Novelists today, declares John Bayley, for it is he, husband of Iris Murdoch, former Wharton Professor of English at Oxford, feel that they have to follow certain guidelines, 'getting all the horrors in. Abortion, all that sort of thing'. Nothing to curl up with cosily any more, says the Prof. Horror. Resignation demanded. Funnily enough, the Prof has published a novel this year, called Alice. It features drug-smuggling, lesbianism and worse, and has, so far, failed to attract sufficient cosy curlers-up to trouble the bestseller lists. Staying with the literary world, momentarily, the Captain has to tell you that he is worried about Martin Amis. You remember him. Little chap, big reputation. Anyway, excerpts from his latest book, Information, published in Granta, have been less than well-received; and now he has popped up in the New Yorker defending the current boring crop of tedious tennis players and attacking their colourful predecessors for smashing rackets, making obscene gestures and using bad language. Martin is 45.