Reviews — From the May 2014 issue

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Last fall, the Man Booker Prize, the premier award for fiction in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, announced that it was coming to America. Presumably Edward St. Aubyn had already finished his fictional send-up of the Booker, lost for words (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26), or else he would have included a ten-gallon tale in full Texas drawl on his short list for the made-up Elysian Prize. Get it? Elysian? Literature is dead.

The Elysian is funded by a “highly innovative but controversial agricultural company” of the same name, whose mandates go beyond genetically modified crops into “weaponized” agents that cause “any vegetation on the ground to burst immediately into flame, forcing enemy soldiers into open country where they could be destroyed by more conventional means.” A prize is good P.R. in real life too, where the Man Group manages $52 billion a year and bestows $80,000 on the Booker. Of course, as the Austrian irritant Thomas Bernhard knew, starving artists can’t be choosy. As he wrote in My Prizes, still the best take on renown shamefully accepted, “No one reproaches a beggar on the street for taking money from people without asking where they got the money they’re giving him.”

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