Nine characters in search of a Booker-winning author

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The Independent Online
WHO do you think will win the Booker Prize? We asked some celebrities for their views on the most talked about and least read book of the year.

John Major: I think Anthony Trollope is exactly the kind of writer who should be winning the Booker Prize. Industrious in his own right, he worked ceaselessly for the privatisation of the Post Office, he depicted in his novels a world of calm and industrial prosperity, in which traditional values of caring and discipline and order are paramount, and I'm sorry, but I think he would have approved of VAT on domestic fuel, because Trollope was a realist, unlike some of his opponents, who . . .

Margaret Thatcher: In my opinion - and I must stress that this is only my opinion, along with that of every right-minded person I have talked to - in my opinion the Booker Prize should never have been won by a novel. I have nothing against novels. I once read one myself. It was not an unpleasant experience, though not one I should care to repeat very often, but I did feel afterwards that I had learnt nothing. There were no statistics, no figures, no ideas one could get one's teeth into. And do you know why? Because a novel is written by one person alone] It is simply the expression of one person's ideas, untested in committee or Cabinet. Far better, I would have thought, to choose a book which had been thoughtfully authored by a team of responsible politicians and experts, a set of modern memoirs, for example, a set of political memoirs, a recent set of political memoirs - that, it seems to me, is the kind of book which should win the Booker Prize . . .

Ted Dexter: England has a very bad record in winning the Booker Prize, I admit that. It has been carried off by foreigners more often than I would care to see happening. But there is a reason for this. Is it the unfairness of the umpiring? Is it the unfairly favourable conditions under which foreign writers operate - better sunlight, better paper, etc? Is it something to do with the food? Is it something to do with the absence of the best writers from Essex who would, I am sure, represent their country at the highest level if given the chance . . ?

Esther Rantzen: The question I would like to ask, in all humility, is this: how much good does a novel actually do? At the end of the day, how many little children has a novel rescued? A TV programme brings sunshine and hope into people's lives, but can a work of fiction do that? Is it not possible, on the contrary, that when a novelist devotes the dedicated hours of writing that he must to his novel, he may neglect parental duties, may well be condemning some poor child to a lonely and impoverished life? And that is why I am setting up a new service - Bookerline - which will enable any fiction writer's offspring to phone up to report stories of wrong-doing which can then be turned into television rather than solitary fiction . . .

Graham Taylor: Yes, well, at the end of the day, all you can say is that a man went out and wrote as well as he could, and if it wasn't good enough that is the end of it, what counts in the last resort is results, and if the result didn't go your way on the night, that's life, there were five people on the shortlist who didn't make it, and one who did, and good luck to him, but that doesn't mean the winner was the best, only that he won, and then again, getting to the shortlist is a great, great achievement, no further comment, please, out of my way . . .

William Hill: I've read them all, and there's no way that any of them can win, frankly.

Clive Anderson: Yes, then, right, right, well, there we are, now, let me see . . .

The Rev Ian Paisley: Do we find English writers on the shortlist? I think we do. Do we find writers from Dublin on the shortlist? Oh, yes, I think we do. But do we find anyone from the beleaguered community in Northern Ireland on the shortlist? Oh no, we very much do not] Yet another sign that the whole thing has been sewn up between London and Dublin, and that is why I condemn the whole monstrous . . .

Gore Vidal: The Booker Prize, to me, represents the quintessence of all that is British. It combines the two favourite activities of the British - horse racing and not reading novels. It has the seediness of the racing world and the glamour of remaindered fiction. When a person says he likes horse racing, he does not mean he likes getting on a horse and riding in competition - he means he likes betting on it, usually without even watching it. With novels, it is quite different. The British like to write novels, but do not care much to read them. Hence we have the phenomenon of Margaret Drabble . . . Is that enough?

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