Certainly the very mixed quality of the books on the long- and short-lists for the Not The Booker exposes the nomination process as essentially random. It isn’t about quality at all; it’s about how many friends and colleagues a given author can muster to carpet-bomb the nomination process. When a book with some independent merit turns up, it’s actually a surprise.
It’s a shame that no advocates for English Slacker have emerged, but hardly a surprise. It’s quite clear from comments elsewhere that most of the supporters of this kind of writing have almost no basis for comparison because they’ve hardly read anything. Expecting them to have read Faulkner is a big ask, as they say. More troubling is that many of them seem not have read people like Salinger, Trocchi and Coupland, either; not the best writers, but arguably among the best directly comparable writers, and hardly a challenge to read.
Again the impression is of readers who read nothing outside a very narrow spectrum of literary types, and only recent books: who think that the purpose of literature is to reflect their own lives; who have never really thought about why they prefer particular books; and who refuse to discriminate, as though to abandon judgement were a virtue. Everything is ‘brilliant’ or ‘crap’; hyperbole is their only emotional register.
As all writers begin as readers, it’s hardly surprising that a generation of inadequate readers should produce a generation of inadequate writers. It’s not really the literature of nihilism, as Leroy Hunter briefly suggested above - it’s the literature of solipsism, endlessly fascinated by the mere fact of selfhood in its every trivial detail.
Last year, The Top 13 website published a list of ‘the top 13 novels about drugs’. One might argue about particular inclusions or exclusions, but it isn’t a bad list and anybody writing in this genre is competing with these writers. They all have two things in common: they can all write, and they have something to offer beyond a bald account of the contents of their own heads. Paul Bowes in a Not The Booker discussion of Chris Morton’s debut novel, “English Slacker”.