Tuesday 30 August 2011

Hollinghurst: "The Stranger's Child"

This is 'Booker Longlist' time of year, when I'm trying to second-guess the judges about what will make it onto the shortlist  (to be announced tomorrow week), and so polish off as many of the shortlist as I can before we're in endgame territory. The judges have never (since I started doing this, anyway) agreed with my choice of winner - although they've come close, on occasion. And the point of having read all of the shortlist before the announcement is in order to make an informed decision in advance of the official one - whatever it might turn out to be. I didn't mind when Hilary Mantel won, for example (although I thought 'The Glass Room' ought to have won, that year) or when Hollinghurst won in 2004 (although the book by Colm Toibin that was also shortlisted that year, 'The Master',  was by far the better piece of writing). Last year's winner (Howard Jacobson) was a poor choice - but then, the shortlist itself was a complete mess, last year - and the occasions when they chose Anne Enright and Kiran Desai were just completely barmy.

 Anyway. I've just finished Hollinghurst's 'The Stranger's Child' (originally the bookies' favourite, but apparently it's now dropped to third place) and realised that the whole thing is an enormous game on the part of the author. Each part of the book reflects the work of a notable author in the twentieth-century english canon: part one is Forster ('Room With a View' meets 'Maurice' meets 'Howard's End'); part two, inevitably, is Waugh (but rather than 'Brideshead', it seems to be an amalgamation of 'A Handful of Dust' and 'Vile Bodies'); part three is probably Iris Murdoch (but, since I've never been a fan, I couldn't pinpoint which novels precisely); part four, I would guess is Anthony Powell (later volumes of 'A Dance to the Music of Time') or possibly C.P.Snow....although the latter might not be 'important ' enough for Hollinghurst; and part five is a tongue-in-cheek (it's to be hoped, anyway) reference to Hollinghurst himself (obvious references back to 'The Swimming Pool Library'). Oh, and the bit in part four with the interview with the lecherous octagenarian is probably another reference back to Forster, as well. Even the title of the book, which is ostensibly explained as a reference from 'In Memoriam', could reflect the idea of planting chunks of new writing, cuckoo's-nest-style,  in the oeuvres of the aforementioned late, greats. All things considered, it's probably too self-consciously 'clever'  (typical of the author in person, I gather) for its own good, and the game gets in the way of the book - which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it immensely, of course.

Onward and upward. 'Derby Day' (D.J.Taylor) is next.

Tonight's Dinner:

Prawns in Garlic and Wine.

Chicken Korma; Rice Pilaff.

White peaches with fresh Raspberry Sauce.

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