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Apples and Oranges

June 9, 2011

Can you hear that? Its a soft movement, like the way that waves lap over each other again and again on the shore of a Canadian lake. Or the way sound that geese make – their wings really – as they ascend into the sky.

The blogger world is all aflutter as a result of tonight’s announcement of the winner of the Orange Prize. It seems that every year (or at least over the past several that I have cared enough to follow) the flutter has three wavelengths.

One is a debate about whether or not a major international prize should be available only to women. Judging by the number of female authors that I am committed to reading completely (limited to maybe two or three names), I am going to go ahead and say that we still have a long way to go as literary consumers before there is a semblance of equality in the industry.

One is about the winner. Oftentimes we find ourselves welcoming a ‘new giant’ to the folds of literature. The historian in me wants to leave the proclamation of monsters in our midst to time – we shall see if we find ourselves reading a modern day, female version of Charles Dickens in fifty years. Or one hundred. Or more.

One is about whether or not the winner deserved the award. And this year this debate seems to be particularly pronounced in the blogosphere.

The winner this year is Tea Obrecht, for her debut novel The Tiger’s Wife. I only encountered this book as a result of the Orange Prize, though this is more a result of my recent conversion to literary news. In reality, Ms. Obrecht’s debut novel was very hotly anticipated.

Very received with decidedly mixed opinions.

And this is why I have not read it yet. Well, that and my collection of hundreds of other books that are deserving of my time.

But with the acceptance of this award, and with becoming the youngest author to have ever received it (she is only twenty five, a mere one year older than myself), it is nearly guaranteed that I will put the time in to find out what is so wonderful about the novel. I am not sure what to expect.

From what I can tell, it is that I will enjoy it. The writing is top-notch. The story interesting. The metaphor somewhat contrived.

Many are saying that they are hoping that Tea Obrecht’s best work is ahead of her. Many are saying that her novel is very, very good. Not many are saying that it was the best book short-listed for the prize, though apparently enough judges were for it to receive the prize (but even there the judges have publicly admitted that the decision was far from unanimous).

Controversy and literature. Definitely going to get me to read this book.

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