I'm posting not-in-order here, because I loved the Smith so much I had to write about it first.
Only a quickie on this one. Another good reason for leaving it a little while before writing about it was that it had struck me as ephemeral, and I wanted to give it chance to settle to test my instincts on that.
Those instincts turned out, for me, to be right. I can't say I didn't enjoy reading it - I read Ferris's first novel however many years ago when it came out, and this is very much the same tone, so it made me laugh, and is the only one on the shortlist to have done that.
But it's got so little substance that I couldn't possibly think of it as a prizewinner - there's no deeper meaning, no complexity of language, somehow not enough display of skill. I *know* writing funny prose is in itself a skill, but I can't help wanting something more writerly, when you're talking about a proper serious prize like the Booker.
Less than a fortnight after finishing this and all I could tell you about it is:
- the protagonist is a dentist who has a range of existential crises and supports the Red Sox
- there's some kind of weird conspiracy about a suppressed race who have suffered more than the Jewish people
- the dentist's receptionist is called Connie, and he used to date her
- mobile phones are referred to throughout as "me-machines"
Honestly, I don't recall how it ended, or quite how the dentist was involved in the conspiracy, or the names of any other characters (including the protagonist, actually) - it just wasn't complex enough to leave any barbs in me. I still enjoyed it more than the Jacobson, and would endorse it as a beach read or something for a long train journey, but not a prize winner.