Friday, August 21, 2015

Are There Working Class Voices In The Booker Prize Long List?

Not posh enough for the Booker?
This is a genuine question. I've only read 2 books on the longlist this year (which, as usual, is pretty diverse in terms of representation of people of colour and women) so I don't actually know if they've got some working class writers on there. I'm suspicious of them because in the past the Booker Prize has ignored working class writers, especially working class women like Zadie Smith or Monica Ali or Janette Winterson, and every year they pick a very posh person (private school, Oxbridge) to be the chairman (its almost always a man) of the judging panel. Most of the other judges are also very posh which perhaps is why the Booker Prize longlist is always strangely bereft of anyone from a working class background. But, like I say, I don't know maybe this year it's different. I've done a cursory look through the author bios on the Booker website and I see literary agents, journalists, graduates of prestigious MFA programmes etc, not many brickies or mums in South London flats. The subject matter of these books too (apart from the always interesting Commonwealth writers) seems to be about upper middle class people and their bloody problems. I reckon even last year's winner, Richard Flannagan, a blue collar kid from hardscrabble rural Tazzie probably wouldn't have won if he had written a book about enlisted men instead the officer class in the British army...Julian Barnes called the Booker Prize "posh bingo" and he wd know, wouldn't he? (The other big Aussie winner over the years has been Peter Carey who is very posh indeed.) 
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Maybe I'm wrong, maybe times have changed and there are many books about working class people on there...If you've read more than I have (and you probably have) please let me know and I will - happily - stand corrected.