Saturday, 18 October 2008

So, that was the week that was

Aravind Adiga is the third debut novelist to win the Booker Prize, David Guterson is one of the most confident ublic speakers I have heard, and Geraldine Brooks is a thoroughly lovely person.

These are just three of the lessons I have learned this week. It's been a busy one, so busy in fact that I completely forgot that the Booker winner was to be announced on Tuesday. I guess that says something about my feelings towards the shortlist: how Joseph O'Neill and Salman Rushdie were excluded I have no idea. But without having read the whole book, I have to declare myself delighted with the result. I mean, who wanted another depressing Irish author to win (particularly since the last two were so awful), or one of the two 800 page monsters? Sure it would have been nice if Linda Grant had won since she was at our Literary festival back in March promoting the book, but to my mind, a little political controversy in a proper story makes The White Tiger a worthy winner, though from an admittedly poor bunch. Whisper it quietly, but perhaps the judges will have chosen a book that people might actually enjoy for a change. Its been about 6 years since that last happened. And as a bookseller, that's a nice thing to see.

But if the Booker was overlooked this week for me, it was because we had two literary events from accross the pond within the space of 4 days. First up, David Guterson, who I have to admit to thinking was Canadian. But no. As with many writers, he was once upon a time a teacher, and he certainly must have been a confident one. He was fascinating, able to discuss almost any subject thrown at him confidently and coherently without even a pause to think. I was impressed, though left with a niggling thought that he ust have been a difficult teacher to have. I mean, how would you get a word in edgeways? And, thanks to the infinite benevolence of the top brass at Waterstone's, I think I shall spend some of my free £15 gift voucher, on a nice signed copy of Snow Falling on Cedars.

As a quick aside, I am pleased to note that Waterstone's seems to be moving rapidly in the right direction. For the first time, I have the impression that it is a company with a philosophy I can buy into. (but more of that soon).

Thursday saw Geraldine Brooks night. It is unusual to have female writers in this autumn series, I don't think Chris like to interview them, but it is nice to see a change in tempo (and the punters seemed to appreciate it, we sold more books than for any other author so far this series). She did a little slide talk about the background to the writing of her latest book, and then sat down to the interview. As a former foreign correspondent, she is a conemporary of Kate Adie, though that is where the similarities end. As she noted, sometimes the best way to get somewhere, is by being small and unthreatening. Under her small and sweet exterior, she was clearly a really tough cookie. And, most importantly in my opinion, she seemed a thoroughly lovely woman. Its just a shame she had to get home so that her husband could go out and campaign for Mr. Obama.

So that was the week that was. I also had to read a bland and slightly pointless (though undoubtedly well written) book for Books Quarterly. Why do I keep getting these short, supposedly funny novels? What have I ever done to give the impression that these are the sort of books I like? I don't know. But, despite some positive reviews on, I don't think Poe Ballantine's first novel, God Clobbers Us All, is likely to make great waves on this side of the Atlantic. I am now just starting on a book which has been a huge hit in Canada this year, Gil Adamson's The Outlander. It is the third book to be released in 2009 that i have read so far. So far, True Murder by Yaba Badoe was pretty good, God Clobbers Us All, less so. If anything in 2009 equals Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, then i'll be a pretty happy reader.

At last count, i think it is 14 books from 2008 I have read so far. But will I make 52 books for the year? We''ll have to see on January 1st.

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