"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Luck and the Booker

Work and a coughing not-quite-flu-but-feels-almost-as bad cold stopped me from posting straight after the Booker was announced. I was though able to follow events by Twitter. Miss Daisy Frost sent out tweets every few minutes from her table positioned on the frontline, commenting on the lamb dinner and the pallor of the short list nominees. 
Howard Jacobson's novel The Finkler Question, is the first funny book to have won and I wonder if that is a reflection of the times. When there is trouble ahead perhaps the only sensible thing to do is laugh.
Reading the newspapers and blogs such as The Literary Saloon I discovered a couple of surprising things about the way books are selected for consideration by the Booker judges (138 titles this year - some years it is a lot less).
Publishers can only submit two books but the judges can "call books in". It sounds very informal and haphazard. 
Jacobson's book was called in. Did that mean his publishers didn't put it forward themselves because they didn't think it would win? Or were they gambling on the Judges choosing it anyway (he has been long listed twice before) and they wanted to use their two book quota on something that might not otherwise come to the panel's attention? 
The Daily Telegraph says that Emma Donoghue's Room only came to be on the short list because one of the Booker judges went to a party and heard someone praising it a lot. Next day it was "called in".
I suppose the lesson to draw from that is never ever underestimate the power of word of mouth recommendations. 
Or luck.

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