Boyd Tonkin in The Independent says this year’s summer beach reads have more literary merit than those before:
“The Big Beach Read has changed. It has grown a bit smarter, and a bit deeper. Pure escapism has given way to a more solid grounding in character, history and even social reality. Wising up, rather than dumbing down, has marked the evolution of premier-league popular fiction over the past two decades. Once, the critically lauded Booker winner and the must-read chunky paperback epic axiomatically belonged in separate literary galaxies. No longer. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, already one of the prize’s highest-grossing victors, has since its paperback release in March added another quarter-million to its UK sales.”
While this may be true, and perhaps the general reader is much better informed via the various media in which the books are now publicized, many fear that the Booker,
” over the last decade or so has become increasingly more and more “mainstream” in character….. The novels selected seem to be becoming more narrative- and character-driven, perhaps deliberately to appeal more to the mass market, with a readable story and appealing characters being placed over originality, creativity and a willingness to escape literary convention.”
I guess it is the push and pull between critically-acclaimed works and mass-market hits that keeps reading interesting.
For me, a book that keeps me hooked not merely because I’m dying to know what happens next, but because I’m arrested by the characters, the language, and essentially by what the book is trying to say, becomes a favorite.
I’m the sort who reads the last page of a genre book before beginning on it, and there are still a huge number of books that keep me reading despite my knowledge of what happens in the end.
I completely agree with novelist Patrick Neate when he says:
“I don’t want to dumb down literature, but how I’d love to smarten up popular culture! And this is what the Booker should do – provide the oomph, the glitz, the X factor…”