Salman Rushdie is being controversial again, the Booker Prize shortlist is too readable and a headline from a parallel universe

In a lengthy interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz Salman Rushdie talked about a lot of things such as the fatwah against him, the persecution of writers worldwide, the Arab Spring, the upcoming film adaption of Midnight’s Children – oh yes, and Game of Thrones. Basically, he considers Game of Thrones “well-produced trash” and “addictive garbage”. If you don’t want to read through the whole interview (though it is interesting), Blastr has a relevant quote.

Unsurprisingly, that brief opinion about Game of Thrones has turned out to be the most controversial thing Rushdie said in that interview, as the comments at Blastr and even Haaretz show. And as if annoying the George R.R. Martin fans wasn’t enough, Rushie also calls The Wire, that holy grail of television, “rather good, but just a cop show in the end”. Methinks Mr Rushdie likes being controversial.

What the enraged commenters miss, however, is that Salman Rushdie actually enjoyed Game of Thrones. He simply doesn’t think it’s a great masterpiece. I also find it interesting that what Rushdie actually said about Game of Thrones

It was garbage, yet very addictive garbage—because there’s lots of violence, all the women take their clothes off all the time, and it’s kind of fun

…applies to half of all HBO shows and the programming of the various HBO wannabes, the half that actually manages to be entertaining that is. The rest has the sex and the violence and doesn’t even manage to be fun.

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Salman Rushdie’s not considering the Game of Thrones TV show a masterpiece will probably be filed under the neverending genre versus literary fiction debate. Another part of that debate is the annual discussion why there are never any SF or fantasy novels nominated for the Booker Prize. Never mind that there have been SF and fantasy novels nominated for the Booker Prize (Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie), some of which even won. They just weren’t marketed as such.

Now China Miéville has offered his take on why explicit SF and fantasy novels are not nominated for the Booker Prize, drawing on Darko Suvin’s estrangement theory.

Though this year, the Booker Prize doesn’t need enraged SFF fans to be controversial, because apparently there has been a lot of controversy that the shortlist was too populist and that Dame Stella Rimington, former head of the MI6 and thriller writer, was unsuited as the chairwoman of the jury. Though the real reason why everybody is upset is apparently that Alan Hollinghurst was not nominated, while a bunch of unknowns were. The Guardian has a round-up of the controversy.

I was quite stunned to hear about the controversy, because I found that this year’s shortlist sounded a lot more interesting than usual. And the Booker Prize at least rewards something other than upper middle class family sagas set against the backdrop of 20th century history on occasion, which is more than some other wannabe major awards have managed.

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In what must be one of the more bizarre exchanges of recent times, the Guardian‘s TV critic Charlie Brooker called British prime minister David Cameron a lizard subsisting on the flesh of sacrificial animals in a column that was actually about budget cuts at the BBC. One Graeme Archer, a political blogger at the Daily Telegraph, begs to disagree and claims that newspaper columnists calling the prime minister a lizard is a sign of Leftist depravity. Charlie Brooker retorts by writing that David Cameron is indeed a lizard and that the Telegraph is denying the truth.

I perhaps shouldn’t find this funny, but I do. I mean, here we have two well-respected journalists at two major newspapers having an argument about whether the prime minister is a lizard (and while Brooker is tongue in cheek, Archer is obviously not). And it’s not an episode of Doctor Who or V but the real world. Unless yesterday’s hick-ups with the Guardian site have accidentally linked me to the Guardian site of a parallel universe, that is.

Considering that the biggest political controversy in Germany in recent times was one politician telling another that he can’t stand seeing the other guy’s “shitty face” anymore, because he was only talking shit anyway, an argument whether the prime minister is a flesh-eating lizard is actually a step up in political discourse. At least, it’s funny, whereas the shit face affair wasn’t funny at all beyond the mildly amusing fact that both gentlemen are members of the same party.

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4 Responses to Salman Rushdie is being controversial again, the Booker Prize shortlist is too readable and a headline from a parallel universe

  1. Rosario says:

    The critics slating the Booker nominations this year are just a bunch of elitist snobs. I, too, thought the list this year sounded more interesting than usual. I’ve read 3 so far (all of which I really liked, especially Pigeon English), and have 3 more in my to-be-read pile.

    The Cameron the lizard thing was quite funny… I giggled aloud while reading Charlie Brooker’s second column yesterday. Though apparently, if you follow him on twitter, as one of my colleagues does, you’d just want him to shut up now!

    • Cora says:

      The Booker Prize criticism also reeks of elitism to me plus a good dose of “Wah, my favourite wasn’t nominated”. I don’t know what their beef is with Stella Rimmington either, since she’s not the first person not primarily known as a writer or critic to chair the jury. And considering the terminal dullness recognized by the big German literary awards, it’s great that the Booker recognizes newer writers and unusual books and subjects. Besides, Allan Hollinghurst already has a Booker. He doesn’t need another.

      I’m not a fan of Charlie Brooker usually – he once destroyed a programme I loved with a hatchet job review, whereafter all the cool people decided they had to hate it, too. But the lizard thing was funny – how can you not click on a headline that reads “David Cameron is a lizard and everybody knows it”? I don’t follow him on Twitter, so I don’t know if he’s annoying there.

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