So, the shortlist has been announced and remarkably I've already read three! It does mean the long-listers I haven't managed to read yet may fall by the wayside. This is a disappointment as I had set myself a target to read all the contenders this time round.
But as the judges have said that the remaining candidates don't contain an easy read amongst them, perhaps its just as well. One judge was quoted as saying the shortlist was "full of terrible stuff" which caused me to raise an eyebrow, until his statement was clarified that they contained topics such as self-harm, child abuse and murder.
There's no doubt that Marlon James' "Brief History of Seven Killings" covered the murder angle most thoroughly and as child abuse - and to a lesser extent - self harm are subjects I'd not go out of my way to read, I do see his point of view.
But onto book four in my readathon: "Satin Island" by Tom McCarthy. This has proven to be a tough book to review for many reasons. For a short book - only 190 pages - the flow of reading was interrupted by my need to look up a considerable amount of entirely new vocabulary. Most related to the central character's profession - that of anthropologist and ethnographer. I'm a real etymologist and it was a shame that most of this new vocabulary is unlikely to be used by me again.
The book is a first person narrative, with our central character - U - describing his train of thoughts, his randomly selected projects, all the while seeking the ultimate Project for The Company. U was recruited following the publication of his anthropoligical study of drug culture and my initial impression of his somewhat unstructured thought process was some sort of hangover from that experience existed. He follows news stories in an attempt to find linking patterns, seemingly without success.
But in the background is a client-driven project - which U can't talk about - where he appears to contribute in a structured and time-efficient manner. He is commended for this work, even receiving industry respect for it. This is so contrary to his personal project - or is it? I reached the end without discovering the answer.
What I was left with were a few strands of U's thoughts:
That the discovery of a new tribe is rapidly followed by them being either wiped out by diseases to which they have no immunity (and which are carried in by the anthropologists studying them), and/or subjected to a drive for conversion to christianity.
That the "undiscovered" world is becoming the civilised world's dumping ground, a place where our effluent is steadily encroaching and engulfing.
Finally, his dream of Satin Island - or is it Staten Island? A place of mass garbage disposal, appearing shiny from afar, but grim and grimy close to; separate but close to the major civilization it serves; the one breeding the other.
I'm not sure I can say I enjoyed this book, but I'm glad I read it. It made me think - really, really think. I admit I may not have felt quite so positively if it had been a lengthier tome though ...
What are your views on the short-list? And how about Satin Island? Do you give it a thumbs up, or down?
The Old Shelter
Iain Kelly Writing
Bit 2 Read
A Back of the Envelope Calculation
No Love for Fatties
What are They
Petrichor and Clouds