Re-reading the best of the Booker

From The Telegraph:

Rushdie Maths pedants may disagree, but this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Booker Prize, which began in 1969. The celebrations continue on Thursday, with the announcement of the Best of the Booker: the novel that in the opinion of the public has been the greatest of all the prize’s winners – although in these democratic times, anybody can vote whether they’ve read the books or not. Less democratically, the shortlist of six was chosen by a panel of three, and duly led to several news stories about startling omissions – from Possession to Life of Pi. Personally, though, I found myself in the pleasingly smug position of having read all but one of them. As a result, I decided not just to fill in the gap, but also to break the habit of a lifetime by spending a recent holiday re-reading the other five. (I appreciate that, according to Vladimir Nabokov, “a good reader… is a re-reader”, but there are so many other books out there.) The experience provided plenty of welcome reminders of how good these novels are, as well as plenty of shaming ones of how much you forget about what you’ve read.

And later:

As things stand, though, it’s not easy to see anything beating the far more famous Indian novel on the list – which might be more of an injustice if Midnight’s Children (1981) by Salman Rushdie weren’t also the best book of the lot. Nearly 30 years – and at least three more classic Rushdies – later, Midnight’s Children should, in theory, have lost its power to astonish. In practice, rereading it instantly returned me to that original state of awed disbelief that so much exhilarating stuff can be packed into a single novel. (Rushdie, you feel, could have knocked off the entire plot of Oscar and Lucinda in one chapter here.) At times, the unstoppable commitment to storytelling seems almost pathological. Yet, in the end, the book is so thrilling that wishing Rushdie had trimmed it into something less wild would be as futile as asking a hurricane to tone it down a bit.

More here.