My prediction record on selecting the winner of the Booker from the shortlist is pretty good, though all I’m ever doing is guess the outcome of a 1 in 6 chance, like the roll of a die. Often it’s a book that I really hope will win rather than one I know will (except “Wolf Hall” and its sequel). I still think the world is a worse place for Nicola Barker’s “Darkmans” not winning the prize back in 2007. I was delighted when Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss” won the previous year. That’s part of my affection for “Satin Island”, it’s a book that will make people go “huh?” if they’re driven to reading it via a prize win.
Obviously McCarthy has come to my attention before. “C” was nominated in 2010, the year that Howard Jacobson’s “The Finkler Question” won. I was determined to read “C” anyway but somehow never did: I’d been intrigued by its titular similarity to Pynchon’s “V” and the scribbly cover of its first edition (not the awful American cover on the wikipedia page for the novel). Generally when an author gets Booker nominated for two consecutive novels, it’s a sign that they are doing something right, hence my interest in “Satin Island”. This is with the usual caveats that prizes don’t detect good writing, you do, but they do tend to help.
From what I’ve read so far, Satin Island is an interesting take on what the novel might become rather than a shining example of technique. What I mean is that - at least for now - Satin Island strikes me as a worthy winner for its imagination and innovation in taking the novel as a form forwards. In the chapters I’ve read so far, it’s full of ideas and thoughts and hops between them consummately. However, I’ll only know if it’s worth persisting with if I manage to persist with it.
It’s quite short (the shortest of the remaining nominations by a fair way) so I should get through it in the next week or so. Expect a short review around then - especially if it wins tomorrow!