(Original Review, September 30th 2012)
And people are entertained by different things. Some people are entertained by cat videos. Others are entertained by football or motor racing. Others are entertained by mathematical or philosophical problems. Others are entertained by jigsaw puzzles or their literary equivalents. Others are entertained by sophisticated use of narrative technique. Some people may be entertained by all of these: they have rich mental lives, with varying sources of entertainment.
What made Umberto Eco's Il Nome della Rosa / The Name of the Rose such a great novel was that it combined so many types of entertainment: detective thriller, historical novel, literary allusions as a puzzle, psychological novel, a bit of sex, lots of violence and horror, discourses on philosophy and mediaeval aesthetics, and more. Readers could read it on the level appropriate for them; and if you could appreciate several levels, so much the better.
There is an absolute place for literature that is complex and hard but you have to then question the purpose of an award. Should the booker prize be to transcend excellent enjoyable books to the mass market (rewarding the author / publisher and ultimately the reader). Or should it be to reward a small elitist group of reviewers and showcase their views?
Personally I feel this year is more about the latter than the former.
In the case of Self it was revenge; it was intravenously injecting the psychotic rarefied "heights" of the imperial British and European elite's academy with a heavy overdose of their own medicine. What was the point?