Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Congratulations to Atlantic on their Booker success with The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. As one of their non-Booker-winning authors, I do hope it doesn't make them all unbearable.

Back in my days on Publishing News, party small talk around this time of year always began with "What do you think of the Booker short-list?". This would then be followed by vague mumblings, designed to give the impression that the answerer had read even a paragraph of one of the novels. It was one of those situations where you really could have had your opinions handed to you on a crib sheet.

Unless, that is, you were me or a colleague. I was always scrupulously honest and admitted that I had no idea, not being much of a one for fiction. This was always sure to produce a Bateman cartoon response, even though the person asking me almost certainly had no more of a real clue than I did. Once, a publishing type pressed further and said "Come on, you must read some fiction", at which I confessed to a penchant for PG Wodehouse. "Oh," came the reply. "Old books. Don't you read anything new?". "Yes, AI (advance information) sheets mainly," feeling almost 99% sure that this person's opinion of modern writing came from the same source and reviews. M'colleague's response was far subtler, bordering on genius. He'd simply reply "Another good year for fiction". Then, in the pregnant moment while the questioner was trying to work out whether he was expressing surprise that so much fiction should make it through to the short list of a fiction prize, or whether he was saying that he liked all of the books on the list, m'colleague would change the subject.

I've always fancied the Whitbread myself. Apparently Abdul Abulbul-Amir presents the winner with a case of Best Bitter. The runner-up gets 4 cans of Trophy, "the pint that thinks it's a quart".


Kecske said...

I've always wanted to win the Worthington E myself. I'd celebrate in a Berni Inn.

LF Barfe said...

Do you think that drug dealers used to sidle up to punters singing "E, the way you like it, really like it"? I love the idea of different literary prizes named after defunct beers. This just in: Salman Rushdie's taken the Double Diamond.

Kecske said...

What a pleasant surprise - I had always thought that Salmon Rushdie would be more likely to win something from Davenport's, as he'd have to have it delivered at home.

You are absolutely right - it would be fun if there were feminists in university English Literature departments across the globe who felt slighted by Sylvia Plath's failure to win a Watney's Red Barrel.

Phil Norman said...

If all literary prizewinners restricted their acceptance speeches to a simple, "I'm only 'ere for the beer!" we'd all be better off.

Aurora said...
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