Tag Archives: Prize

What’s on your bookshelf?

Finishing reading a book which you have loved every minute of is a bitter-sweet moment. You know that you will never again experience reading it for the first time, no matter how many times you return to re-read in future.

I suppose one of the best ways of countering this is by staying faithful to a list of favourite authors to whose books you immediately approach when visiting a bookshop. You can be (almost) sure that their other work will give you something new to think about, whilst picking up similar pleasurable (if that’s the best word for it) threads as their other writing. Whilst browsing my bookshelf for the next book to begin, it really hit me that I am incredibly guilty of this habit.

Not only does my collection feature groups of books by the same authors, Barnes, Carter, Darrieussecq, Kingsolver, Orwell, Woolf (yes, in alphabetical order) I realised that these groups of books are, for the most part, written by women.

As we fast approach the June announcement of the Orange prize for Fiction is there an especial resonance to considering the sex of the authors we generally read?

The shortlist was announced just last week and a (female) friend noted that the Orange prize winners tend to follow similar themes, in line with their ‘feminine’ authors and (perhaps more dangerously) audience.

So, it has to be asked, does the Orange prize really cater only for women, following a series of themes only of interest to half of the species? What’s more, do reading habits follow gender lines overall? Although it looks like I’ve run out of time to finish the shortlist, perhaps it’s something to bear in mind when we begin this year’s winner?

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Turner & the Masters Exhibition; Tate Britain, London

It really doesn’t need much of an excuse to get lots of people looking at a Turner exhibition. As one of the most recognised, and loved, of British artists, you know that you will struggle to get a glimpse of his more iconic paintings upon entering any exhibition. This exhibition at London’s Tate Britain is arranged to display Turner’s working engagement with the great masters from throughout the centuries, along with his intense rivalry with his contemporaries.

We are all familiar Turner’s later style, but murmers of disgruntled fans arose when greeted with his earlier, more ‘classical’, style. Furthermore, the arrangement of his works beside those most composititionally similar to the Masters, including Titian and Rembrandt, meant many viewers felt compelled to conjure such intelligent comments as: ‘Well, he wasn’t all that original, then was he?’ or ‘I prefer the colours in that one.’ Unhelpful, no doubt, and not the intention of the exhibition as a whole. The subtlety of the layout did improve towards the analysis of Turner’s connection with his fellow artists of the time. A charming story of his addition to a painting of a small red buoy to bring life, and show up, Constable’s red-embued companion piece at one showing sticks in my mind.

Bring them out again and again for any excuse. Simply the act of looking, and considering this artistic institution of comparison was certainly brought out, and we were forced to consider the concept of the ‘master’ and what it means. But please never again to hear the words ‘You could put that picture on the wall in your living room and every time you walk past it you would notice a new detail. That’s real art.’