Salman Rushdie wins all-time best of Booker Prize
July 10, 2008 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Salman Rushdie is now officially the Booker Prize's best-author. Rushdie's 1981 novel Midnight's Children was named Thursday as the greatest-ever winner of Britain's most prestigious literary award, in celebration of the prizes 40th anniversary. The only other time this award was given, on the 25th anniversary in 1993, Midnight's Children also won.
posted by stbalbach (32 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Midnight's Children was a tremendous novel, but I can't help feeling that Rushdie's fame has become the somewhat bigger attraction.
posted by three blind mice at 12:51 PM on July 10, 2008

A worthy winner, if slightly predictable. I was rooting for JG Farrell, who is sorely underrated. It was nice to see his books on prominent display in Borders yesterday.
posted by WPW at 12:52 PM on July 10, 2008

Yeah, it's a really good book. Really good.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:57 PM on July 10, 2008

I still really love A.S. Byatt's Possession. With all of the different styles of poetry Byatt wrote, nevermind the moving story at the heart of it, I think it was just a remarkable literary achievement.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:59 PM on July 10, 2008

I've been plodding through Midnight's Children for about a month now. It's good, but I don't think I'd call it the best novel I've ever read.

But then, nobody asked my opinion.
posted by Target Practice at 1:02 PM on July 10, 2008

In related news, KokuRyu has announced that Pat Barker's "The Ghost Road" has won the KokuRyu all-time best of Booker Prize.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:09 PM on July 10, 2008

I, too, had to plod through Midnight's Children, and don't quite see what the fuss is about. OTOH, my introduction to Rushdie was via The Satanic Verses, which I managed to read before it became controversial and found it fascinating. I had the good fortune to be able to hear him speak a few weeks ago. He was charming and erudite and showed a great love of history. You can hear him on book tour here.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:15 PM on July 10, 2008

I read it when I was 12 (and it was hard going for a 12-year-old). I don't remember a lot about it except that it really got me interested in chutney, a love that I still have today. Should probably read it again.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:30 PM on July 10, 2008

Oh God, I might have to read it after all.
posted by Phanx at 1:37 PM on July 10, 2008

I have never been past page 5 of Midnight's Children, despite several attempts and despite enjoying several other Rushdie books. It's hands down my wife's favorite book, too. Do I just lack the intellectual capacity? Well, yes, probably.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:39 PM on July 10, 2008

I've discovered that I like Salman Rushdie the personality much more than Salman Rushdie the author. Whatever his faults or strengths as an author, I've always found him delightful to listen to, and remarkably self-effacing and sometimes self-mocking in interviews. For someone who faced a very real threat of death for nigh unto decades because of a book he wrote, he seems to be pretty level-headed.

Of course, for all I know, he's a lederhosen-molesting closeted gerbil-porn aficionado who hates bacon, but I've never heard him interviewed about that.
posted by scrump at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2008

It was interesting, all right, but The Moor's Last Sigh blew my doors off.
posted by kittyprecious at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2008

Pff. If someone passed a death sentence on me I could win that easy.
posted by Artw at 1:59 PM on July 10, 2008

Good book. It'll be a good book in 25 more years too.

Not much to talk about here.
posted by rokusan at 2:07 PM on July 10, 2008

You're not alone, Slarty Bartfast. I've tried to read a few of Rushdie's books, but never got past page 10 or so. I don't know why, exactly. I'll try Midnight's Children, I suppose, maybe it'll grab me like the others didn't.
posted by zardoz at 3:14 PM on July 10, 2008

I've never read Midnight's Children even though I've owned it for over two years. I started and got sidetracked and never got back to it. I consider it my fault, not the books.

Of the Booker Prize-winning novels I've read my favorite remains James Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late.
posted by Kattullus at 3:23 PM on July 10, 2008

The Moor's Last Sigh is better.

I think Midnight won because Rushdie had the cojones to be Salman Rushdie.
posted by MotorNeuron at 4:14 PM on July 10, 2008

Oh please. Best of the Booker? What, they're closing up shop? If only. And if not, how often are they going to pull this kind of stunt? Every five years? Ten? Twenty?

The whole idea pretty much degrades the entire contest, a contest which has always struck me as more than a little affected in the first place. Takes some brass to style your enterprise as "the most important literary prize in the English speaking world". Sorry, brings out the Bronx cheer instinct in this colonial, whoever the hell has won it.

Or lost it, for that matter; for the ranks of losers over time tend to be more productive of the long term stuff.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:33 PM on July 10, 2008

I'm with IndigoRain, this seems like a pretty meaningless publicity stunt, and the Booker has generally seemed inordinately interested in its own fame in the past few years. I've heard good things about the book itself, but I'm not sure that it's suddenly more meaningful now that it's won the Booker Prize and the Best Booker of All Time As of 2008 Prize.
posted by whir at 4:48 PM on July 10, 2008

IndigoJones, sorry
posted by whir at 4:49 PM on July 10, 2008

I read the first page of Midnight's Children and immediately thought, what they said about the book was true: it is about them (them being my parents' generation, the Baby-Boomer-equivalent generation in India). Being 12 at the time, that meant it became adult lit., and I immediately shelved it along-side Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, Danielle Steele and other authors I was not supposed to read in my family library.
I still think it is about them and still haven't gotten back to reading the book, although since then, I've read Shame, Grimus and all of Rushdie's other works except Satanic Verses. Midnight's Children is always checked-out at the nearby university library; I've read most titles there in the Indian English section, but still haven't been able to track this down. (Nibbling through Asian (i.e., non-Indian-Asian) lit. these days for many reasons, so haven't gotten back to my old Indian-English reading list. Different story that.)I guess I could simply buy the book, but heck, books like this should be read when they're old; the pages must feel musky, the texture of the paper needs to be dark. It's a bit like drinking single-malt, really, the books need to be matured, they need that aroma. May be it's just me; may be I'm just 'rebelling' against my parents' generation in a very very stupid, pointless manner by not reading the book yet.
posted by the cydonian at 6:25 PM on July 10, 2008

I read Midnight's Children in college and fell in love with it, but only after re-reading the first 90 pages a couple times. I've recommended it to quite a few people since then, but I always warn them that it can seem a bit obtuse at first. I tell them to take it slow and even to re-read a few times if you must. The narrator and main character, Saleem, has a very odd cadence as well as some strange speech patterns. I think that once you gotten a feel for how he talks and thinks, the book is phenomenal.

I once lent one of my wife's student's boyfriends my dog-eared copy filled with notes and comments (I'd written a paper on it and love to write in the margins). The couple soon moved out of the country, and eventually I gave up hope on getting it back. A year or so down the line I get a package in the mail. The student was in the states visiting her sister and had brought my book. Her sister just happened to be in the theater version of the book, and the group of them ran into Mr-soon-to-be-Sir Rushdie at a cast function. So I open up the package to find that my book filled with exclamations and critiques had traveled the world and now had a nice autograph across the title page. Best Booklending Ever.
posted by doctoryes at 6:51 PM on July 10, 2008 [9 favorites]

IndigoJones, some of those thoughts crossed my mind but I figured: it's still a good book, worth a post for those who never heard of it (or the Booker); this is only the second such prize (the first on the 25th), but no doubt there will be another on the 50th (and why not every 10 years after - the older a prize gets, the more weight it carries on anniversaries - sort of like people); it was picked by readers so it's really fairly light and shouldn't be taken as seriously as the yearly prize; the purpose of any literary prize is to promote reading and books and this is just another way to do it, given how infrequent it is, and how un-serious it is, I don't think it dilutes the reputation of the regular prize.
posted by stbalbach at 7:29 PM on July 10, 2008

Well, I guess I need to hit the library.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:30 AM on July 11, 2008

I'm with IndigoJones. I'm very much a sceptic when it comes to the usefulness of literary prizes.

Why help promote the Booker thingy when they already do a heroic job of promoting themselves and their stupid prize?

posted by Sitegeist at 3:16 AM on July 11, 2008

Does anybody know where I can find some of that grasshopper green chutney that he wrote about? I've been looking for some ever since I read Midnight's Children twenty plus years ago.
posted by donfactor at 3:44 AM on July 11, 2008

...nice story, doctoryes...
posted by rmmcclay at 6:11 AM on July 11, 2008

Oh come on, God of Small Things didn't even get short-listed? That book (which I avoided for years because of the treacly title) made my whole world explode around my ears. Disgrace should be choking on GoSM's dust.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:52 AM on July 11, 2008

I've read most of Rushdie's books but finally gave up after, The Ground Beneath Her Feet. His writing style has become too self indulgent and baroque, especially in his attempts to transcribe pidgin dialects, see The Moor's Last Sigh. Of all his books, I prefer Shame, since it gets to the heart of an important concept in the Islamic world - shame, an emotion which has become irrelevant in the West.

Possession would have been a better choice. Byatt's writing is historical, folkloric and incredibly compassionate.
posted by nikitabot at 8:30 AM on July 11, 2008

Oh, I have no problem at all with the post, Stalbach, glad to have it brought to our attention, in fact. PR prizes like this are an interesting 20th century phenom and worthy of our attention, and our scorn. As to the books themselves, well, time will always tell. Myself, I have my serious doubts about Rushdie long term, but that's just me.

shame, an emotion which has become irrelevant in the West.

For the moment, yes, but I think will probably change. Hard times have a stiffening effect....
posted by IndigoJones at 9:00 AM on July 11, 2008

Oh, please. Midnight's Children is clearly just a rip-off of Straczynski's Rising Stars...

posted by Ian A.T. at 8:16 PM on July 12, 2008

No, but it is a rip-off of the Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. A fairly blatant one at that
posted by MrMerlot at 6:27 AM on July 13, 2008

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