More from Bullett—this'll be a three day a week thing, you realize—this time a short column describing my utter ignorance of popular literature. And unpopular literature, for that matter. Really, if you want my attention, there'd better be a murder, some snappy prose, and a boat or two.
A nerdy pocket of the Internet was abuzz yesterday, as the results came down that Hilary Mantel‘s Bring Up The Bodies had taken home the prestigious Man Booker Prize. The award, given to the best English-language novel written by one of the Queen’s subjects, is notable for its ungainly name and for the fanfare that surrounds it. A Pulitzer winner is given a pat on the back, a fat check, and a huge stack of “Pulitzer!” stickers to put on their paperbacks. But win the Man Booker Prize, the BBC tells us, and £1 million in sales is guaranteed. This is the second time Mantel has bagged the award—her first came in 2009, for Wolf Hall—so it seems her place in the Pantheon—as well as her bank balance—is guaranteed. And so I ask seriously: Why in hell haven’t I heard of her?
Not only am I not illiterate, I consider myself to be the kind of man who keeps up with this sort of thing. I read the arts section of the local paper. I talk to friends about books. I am in possession of a library card. And yet, the name Hilary Mantel never penetrated my brain until yesterday. In my ignorance, I have been happy.
And sadly for the institution of cultural criticism, there's more!
Interestingly, stage adaptations of the books have already been announced. Perhaps by the time they make it onstage, I'll have shaken my ignorance enough to deliver an informed opinion. I realize it's completely unfair to rag on these books without reading them, but I just can't shake the feeling that they sound terribly dull. Am I wrong? Has anyone out there actually read them? Please comment or tweet and tell me what they're like. I want to learn without reading, and I need y'all to help.