Not Drowning But Waving
Jason Cowley, former Booker Prize judge, has finished reading new novels by Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Julian Barnes, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan and Hilary Mantel, among others. His findings:"I would argue that the novel, so often declared dead or moribund by VS Naipaul and other cultural pessimists, is as vital now in this time of profound political crisis as it has ever been...Why is this? The obvious answer is that no other art form privileges consciousness and interiority in quite the same way. One can tell fabulous stories through moving images, but how to show thought in film without resorting to the clumsy device of the voice over? How to show in film what Virginia Woolf called the 'quick of the mind'? Only the novel can truly show, from the inside, how it feels to move through space and time, from one day to the next, with contradictory thoughts constantly clashing, over the narrative of a lifetime."
In conclusion, speaking of Zadie Smith's On Beauty: "Above all else, it is, like the novels of McEwan and Ishiguro, a book about the present that fulfils the most stringent test of fiction as stipulated by Ezra Pound: that it brings news of how we live that stays news. No reader can ask for more than that of a novel - especially when, as they have this year, our best novelists are engaging so imaginatively with the challenges tossed up by the culture."