The inaugural Booker Prize was presented in 1969 as a retrospective award for novels released in the previous year.
At the time The Beatles and The Rolling Stones dominated world music, the Vietnam War was coming under increasing public scrutiny, Richard Nixon had just been elected to the Whitehouse, Martin Luther King was assassinated and the musical “Oliver!” won the Best Picture Academy award.
So what about the literature of the times? I currently own only three of the six shortlisted Booker Prizes from the first year and each are very powerful laments on the loss of love, the search for love and identity and the false identities we create, whether through writing, film or careers.
Impossible Object – Nicholas Mosley
As a novel out of print in Australia I had a minor celebration when I managed to pick up this edition (printed in 1992 in the USA) in a second hand book shop for the bargain price of $6.
Do not be put off by the strange choice of review on the back cover. In this edition they quote the closing lines and ramble about “the impossibility of realizing the good life unless one recognizes the impossibility of attaining it”.
Although a challenging novel, I found it compelling. Eight different stories by different narrators, some or all of whom could be writers, and throughout you become confused about the inter relationships, are these people the same characters? They can’t be because the linear structure’s all wrong! May be I’m confused not the writer! You are not sure if you are reading the narrator’s stories or their inner thoughts?!? Are the stories interconnected to another story or stand alone? What on earth do the dream like sequences between sections actually mean? Should I have grounding in Nietzsche before I go any further? I reckon you could probably write a thesis about the meaning of the sections that link chapters, stone horses, gods in exile – don’t know if anyone would be up for reading it though! This novel definitely challenges the stereotypical English narrative structure; however it manages to pull it off. If you like happy endings, or all “i’s” dotted and all “t’s” crossed then this is probably not your cup of tea.
I thoroughly enjoyed “Impossible Object” but I’m also sure a number of readers would concur with my wife, when she read the back cover, the first page and said “what crap are you reading now?”
Scoring wise - I finished it, that's a plus. I've recommended it to other readers, another plus. I enjoyed it AND I thought about it many times well and truly after it was finished - yet another plus. Did I understand it all????? No - but do I need to?
"The Nice and The Good" and "The Public Image" are the two others I own and have read from this year - comments on those two to follow in the coming day or two.