The excellence of the novels shortlisted for the Goldsmiths prize goes without saying. I am telling myself that I will try to read at least one of them.
That might be enough. Or enough without sandwiching them with other kinds of novels. For the prize’s remit is ‘to reward fiction that breaks the mould or opens up new possibilities for the novel form’.
Again this is an excellent thing. It’s good to encourage writers to explore, to experiment with art forms. Didn’t Jane Austen create a new kind of novel?
But I read through the accompanying blurbs for the shortlisted novels with a sinking heart. They all sound rather hard work.
I am not proud of these feelings. The pursuit of enjoyment should not be the primary reason for reading a novel, we should be looking to have our minds and hearts expanded, to be taken on a journey, to learn something about the world we live in.
But there’s the dread that there will only be the unfamiliar or confusing territory, and enjoyment will be in short supply or missing altogether. This is when I find myself reaching with a guilty hand for more ‘sunlit’ novels which tell a story in straightforward language. These may not win prestigious prizes but they don’t leave the reader feeling exhausted.