Monday, August 14, 2006

The Woman's Booker

So, as discussed, the C&P boys are not Booker fans, but personally I love it, as it's a brilliant excuse to have some good old-fashioned arguments about books, which is the reason I got into bookselling in the first place. Drop by the shop any time with an opinion or two, and you'll see what I mean... Anyway it's probably just going to be me taking an interest from the shop floor, but feel free to add your views and let the games begin!

Here is the longlist. I've hardly read any of it yet (hardbacks don't fit in my handbag) but for what it's worth, and in order to get the ball rolling, I've added my initial comments:

Peter Carey 'Theft: A Love Story' (Faber & Faber) - I thought this was great, but I'm a big Carey fan. I think a lot of people found the CAPITAL LETTER BITS quite annoying, and they can't give it to him every year, so I reckon shortlist but no cigar or maybe even a headline-grabbing SHOCK OMMISSION. (It'll win now I've said that. I am always wrong except about Vernon God Little which I knew would win because I loathed it.)

Kiran Desai 'The Inheritance of Loss' (Hamish Hamilton) - don't know much about this

Robert Edric 'Gathering the Water' (Doubleday) - or this, oh dear...

Nadine Gordimer 'Get a Life' (Bloomsbury) - Not read this one (look, I'm not the manager of the shop or anything...) but Gordimer is always a safe pair of hands.

Kate Grenville 'The Secret River' (Canongate) - Cracking and, in my opinion, a step up from her Orange award winner, which was pretty damn good anyway, so in with a real chance for a place on the shortlist. One of our best-sellers in the shop so reckon it'll have some supporters from the 'Loo.

M.J. Hyland 'Carry Me Down' (Canongate) - I was put off this one because the cover looks just like The Kite Runner, and The Kite Runner was one of my most hated books of 2004 or whenever... Remember kids: always judge a book by its cover.

Howard Jacobson 'Kalooki Nights' (Jonathan Cape) - heralded as a work of genius by C&P favourite AC Grayling and who am I to argue with that?

James Lasdun 'Seven Lies' (Jonathan Cape) - We heart James Lasdun at C&P. Shortlist please.

Mary Lawson 'The Other Side of the Bridge' (Chatto & Windus) - Another unknown quantity for me...

Jon McGregor 'So Many Ways to Begin' (Bloomsbury) - This'll be one of those situations where if it wins it'll actually be for the first novel, like Al Pacino's Oscar for 'Scent of a Woman'. Woo-hah!

Hisham Matar 'In the Country of Men' (Viking) - I read the first couple of pages of this and thought, yawn, The Kite Runner again. So another one with a chance at winning then...

Claire Messud 'The Emperor’s Children' (Picador) - pass

David Mitchell 'Black Swan Green' (Sceptre) - I'm a Mitchell fan, in fact am reading Cloud Atlas at the moment (always a beat behind) and I heard some of this on Radio 4. It sounded brilliant and quite a departure in style for him from what I understand, so I'd like to see it do well. Matthew on the other hand assures me that Mitchell is dull and derivative and hyped far beyond his abilities, which is the kind of thing that always goes over my head. I just like his books. Sorry.

Naeem Murr 'The Perfect Man' (William Heinemann) - don't...

Andrew O'Hagan 'Be Near Me' (Faber & Faber) - know much...

James Robertson 'The Testament of Gideon Mack' (Hamish Hamilton) - about these...

Edward St Aubyn 'Mother’s Milk' (Picador) - and this one had a terrible cover.

Barry Unsworth 'The Ruby in her Navel' (Hamish Hamilton) - big name, horrible title

Sarah Waters 'The Night Watch' (Virago) - And last but not certainly least! The absolute number one choice from C&P and I speak for all of us here (without, you know, having checked with the boys or anything), because we *heart* Sarah Waters, she is local, she shops in our shop, this was our first ever book of the month, she invited us to the launch party and everything, and I drank loads and ate all the canapes so I owe her, and we just love her, LOVE her. Waters to win! Go Sarah! Not least because it's about time the winner's speech was sweet and modest and not a pompous heap of horseshit, not mentioning any names but I think we all know the culprits...

Of course, half the fun of Booker time is complaining about what's been left off. So just to get that argument started: where, please, is Remainder by Tom McCarthy?


  1. If you look at my own Blog you will see I put up my own two tips for winner... Kate Grenville and David Mitchell. And just a warning.. don`t let Scott P hear you breathe a syllable against DM or he`ll be after yer with his gardening fork. (Oh yes he does, he has an allotment.) I am well known as a betting woman and also as having made a fair bob or two on the Booker winer in the past...cleaned up with Penelope Lively all those years ago .. then with Graham Swift..then with Banville and that really was cleaning up I can tell you.
    Seriously, there is one quite shocking omission and that is the new Margaret Drabble. But there`s always one.

  2. No Louise Welsh? Criminal...

  3. To Matthew

    Smokey snowy beery


    it's a pleasure to meet you


    That's the inscription in my signed proof of Cloud Atlas...

    David Mitchell is not only a great bloke but one of the most interesting writers of UK origin working today.

    Ok, so maybe I have said in the past that Number Nine Dream reminds me a lot of Murakami and pointed out the debt David owes to Russell Hoban's criminally underated Riddley Walker (for sections of Cloud Atlas) but these are opinions I shared with David when I met him!

    He went on to write a great deal about Russell Hoban - indeed the edition of Riddley Walker I have in front of me has a sticker on the front with a quote from Mitchell. He has acknowledged and paid any literary debts he might owe I think!

    As for the rest of the list I am not at all surprised Remainder is not on it. As Susan suggests the Booker is fairly predictable once you follow the whole game for a few years. Remainder is simply not a "Booker" book - it is far too experimental and takes too many risks to be recognised as proper literature. Don't forget it's a first novel and both David Mitchel and Ali Smith are writers who you can now bet will make the list if they have a book eligable but in the early days were far too frightening for the Booker.

    I rated Jon McGregor's debut very highly and would like to see him make the shortlist.

    I also like In The Country of Men.

    Grenville and "our" Sarah have to be serious contenders both having written superb novels this year.

    I though James Lasdun's The Horned Man was fantastic but was disappointed by Seven Lies - it will probably win now.

    The Booker - there is NO ESCAPE!

  4. Matthew, I fear last time we discussed David Mitchell you may have been in a bad mood... Apologies for the slander and glad you have had the chance to set the record straight!

  5. Matthew - a moody bugger?


    Get back to work on that novel...

    (Adam fell down the stairs yesterday and has hurt his foot! You are missing everything while in Dorset)

  6. This just makes me want to work in a bookshop. I hope you guys walk in EVERY morning and say "We are very lucky people" and repeat it in case you didn't hear first time.
    People trudging into me all day with babies that won't sleep,won't eat,won't churn it out the other end,churn it out the other end too much,churn it out the wrong end and all I could think about was the Booker Prize.
    Kate Grenville for me after day one but it will all change a million times before I finally decide.

  7. I do so hope it will be Sarah Waters - I think she's great! And I really like the sound of the Andrew O'Hagan contender - sounds just my thing - but, being mean, I'm waiting for those paperbacks to be published!

    And - dare I say it? - I really can't stand any of the Mitchell stuff. It makes me seriously lose the will to live - sorry!


    Anne B

  8. The world definitely needs a decent paperback prize so that normal readeres can actually feel involved and have an opinion. Something like the Booker tends to be 99pc hardback with a smattering of unpublished books - obviously this makes sense in terms of it being a new book prize, but it does make it hard for most people to have strong feeling about who should win.

  9. Have only read two thus far - the Sarah Waters and the David Mitchell - and I reckon both will make the shortlist.

    And if Sarah doesn't win something soon I'll cry. I will. It was a travesty she didn't get the Orange Prize...grrrr at Zadie Smith for her pretentious drivel of a novel!

  10. Yes, I agree with you, Victoria - at least in terms of Sarah Waters & Zadie Smith!

    Anne Brooke

  11. OK I'm going to say it too, I got a teensie little bit er bored by Black Swan Green, there now shoot me down.I'm finally reading Nightwatch now and I'm not in the least bit bored.