Orange is not the only fruitcake

Oddly, the head judge of the forthcoming Orange Prize, Daisy Goodwin, has claimed that too many books by women involve sexual abuse, rape, and Asian twins. Instead, she would like more humour. Her complaint is that books seem dark, and focus on depressing issues. Where is the light stuff? The dumbing down of British culture continues apace. Where novels, such as Hard Times, or Middlemarch (to name one by a woman), once dealt with the struggle and hardship of human existence, now it appears, contemporary novelists who actually explore themes and concerns that are of relevance to actual women (alas, these include incest, abuse, rape, as well as twins) are in danger of boring readers like Goodwin. Perhaps the problem is such prizes themselves. Asking anyone to read 120 or more novels over a limited period is a marathon a day sort of madness. Instead of savouring, one begins to look for ways out of the tedium. So - a good laff. Ironically, whereas British novels are apparently ever-less-funny, more and more poetry is light etc. Maybe the judges of prose should come back to poetry. And leave the darkness to the big girls and boys.

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