Battle Of The Books

I’d not seen this BBC4 show before I stumbled across it last night, and missing the first few minutes I was interested to see what happened to the book that lost. The format, not a million miles from the old Freakytrigger feature Duel, is for two relatively arbitrary books to be championed with the audience saying which is the best on merely this evidence. Or rather which the audience would rather read. Since this was a BBC4 audience the appeals were not necessary to simplicity, though one wonders how far claims about how ENJOYABLE and READABLE a book was swayed them.

Last night it was Trainspotting vs Lanark. Because they are both Scottish. And, er, that is about it. Mariella Frostrup (botoxed bonce my flatmate suggested) was all for Trainspotting, cos it was real and gritty. Kevin Day, proletarian comedian, preferred Lanark because, well probably because Mariella had already dibbed Trainspotting. You got the feeling that the whole thing was rigged from the start since Trainspotting had a film which the punters might have already seen and liked. And as soon as Frostrup accused Lanark of being partially science fiction the game was up. Day could moan about linguistic barriers and patronizing prose until the cows come home. There was a nice big picture of Ewan Macgregor on the wall and the punters voted for the pretty boy Ready, Steady Cook style with their blue/yellow cards (though unlike RSC we didn’t actually see the vote so it really could have been fixed).

I like arbitrary match ups like this. The idea is so stupid that it works in both books favours. That said I did kind of want to see them burn, or blow up the losing book at the end in some symbolic gesture. Instead John Seargent, the host, just smiled winsomely and said “I hope this makes you want to go out and read both books”. When it had already been proven to me by an audience who had not read it that Trainspotting was better than Lanark. In partial response to Tom’s question below, you don’t even need to have read the book. You can read the reviews of the film, and be on a TV show for half an hour and say you have read it.