Magazine article The Spectator

Rooting for the Boot

Magazine article The Spectator

Rooting for the Boot

Article excerpt

The Man Booker Prize came and went, as it does these days, because it has ceased to mean anything. The Turner Prize never meant anything in the first place, being a playground for pseuds and posers. It only goes to show that Charles Ives was right. 'Prizes', the composer said, 'are for little boys, and I'm a grown-up'.

But it doesn't stop people handing them over, and making a big song and dance about it. Not a week passes without some procession of mediocrities accepting gongs for something or other. Television, newspapers, magazines and radio are all complicit in this conspiracy to 'brighten' our lives, which, of course, ends up diminishing them.

Everything must be graded, compartmentalised and set in order. So, after the shambles of Great Britons, the BBC have kindly brought us the absurd Good Read, which aims to find the 'nation's favourite book', and comes up with TV fodder like Gone with the Wind! Then there is the 'nation's favourite poem', also on BBC 2 (oh, for a latter-day Huw Wheldon, to throw these moneylenders out of the temple), introduced by a woman who clearly imagines that Mr Kipling made exceedingly good cakes.

Even the Observer is at it, although we should expect no better from the paper that encourages readers to turn to the 'brilliant column' of that Jolly-Sooper de nos jours, Mariella Frostrup. They drew up a list of 100 great novels that came straight from the common room: no Fathers and Sons, no Buddenbrooks, no Radetzky March, no Doctor Zhivago, no Enigma of Arrival, and nothing by the most beautiful living writer of English prose, William Trevor. But the inky-fingered sixth-formers found room for the Pinky and Perky of modern English letters, Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie. …

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