A Competitor

No one seems to share my enthusiasm for Salman Rushdie’s wonderful, wonderful new novel Quichotte, so here is the promotional blurb for one of its competitors for the Booker. Mind you, I haven’t read the novel, so I have no idea what it’s like. It might be good for all I know. I’ll never find out, though, because who can possibly want to read a novel advertised this way:

From one of Britain’s most celebrated writers of color, Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women. Shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize and the Gordon Burn Prize, Girl, Woman, Other paints a vivid portrait of the state of post-Brexit Britain, as well as looking back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.

The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.

Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.

5 thoughts on “A Competitor”

    1. Oh, Ducks is amazing, too. I’m reading it right at this moment. And will be reading it for the rest of my life, it seems, because it’s very long.

      10 Minutes, though, seems like something that’s been done to death. I’m not even tempted to try.

      Quichotte is, I’d say, the most accessible thing Rushdie’s ever written. Which is why I like it. I enjoy clear, understandable plots.

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      1. Ducks seems like it’s going to be one of those books people rave over or hate because of the style. I can’t imagine people who hate post-modernism taking to an entire novel that’s just several sentences full of subordinate clauses. Maybe people who hate stream of consciousness type novels hate the shattering of the illusion that most people’s interiorities are coherent.

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        1. Thank you for making this comment because I’m desperate to talk about this but there’s nobody to talk to.

          The writing in Ducks is definitely postmodern in the sense you say. But! The novel is firmly grounded in the most mundane reality possible. Which is what I love. I don’t care about people living 500 years, speaking in tongues, falling out of airplanes and surviving, or developing magical powers. I hate all that crap. I want to read about filling lunch boxes, real lunch boxes that don’t talk or dance. I want to read about doing laundry, arguing with teenage kids, and worrying about leaky faucets. I want the kind of writing that makes ordinary, unremarkable lives sound fascinating because they are. And that’s the definition of realism. It’s also exactly what Ducks does. I feel very identified with the narrator. It’s not something I need to enjoy books. I love Hispanic literature, svd there’s definitely nothing there that resembles my life. But it’s definitely a powerful feeling to see a character who thinks like me and lives like me in many aspects.

          I don’t know, maybe it will get tiresome after a while because of the constant jumping around of the narrative but I’m not feeling that so far.

          I really think this novel is much closer to Galdós and Balzac than to any postmodernist.

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        2. “people who hate stream of consciousness type novels”

          Lord I hate those! That’s not criticism of those who like them but I have enough chaos in my head… I don’t need to go swimming around in someone else’s chaos (that is probably less interesting to me than my own infinitely fascination chaos).

          I kind of love everyday banal reality scenes but they need to be grounded in something beyond rivers of semi-connected half-ideas. I once bought a novel in Spanish and had to give it up after 30 or so pages after I realized there was no plot and it was all a single sentence (with no punctuation)…

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