The shortlist has been announced for the nth Man Booker Prize! Again, I can’t summon up much enthusiasm for it, or for any of the nominated titles, but it seems fairly obvious (a hostage to fortune here) that Julian Barnes will win. It’s the only book on the list I’d actually want to read anyway – the rest look a little too tricksy or zany for my liking, and if there’s one thing I hate in contemporary literature it’s zaniness. (Often to my cost – I didn’t start reading David Foster Wallace or Thomas Pynchon for ages because of an incorrect zaniness assessment, and was eventually put right by my friend and attorney, David M.)
I don’t feel like adding any further to the kilometres of comment that have already been written about the prize. I may look into the winning entry, just to keep myself abreast of the news. After all, I did buy Howard Jacobsen’s ‘The Finkler Question’ last year, but that’s because I quite like him anyway and the book was only a fiver in Sainsbury’s. (I know, if Waterstone’s goes under it’s going to be my fault … )
Speaking of which, and it’s something that demonstrates my complete unsuitability to ever be any kind of investigative reporter, I knew that Waterstone’s was going to be scrapping the 3 for 2 offer weeks before it was reported in the news. My sources tipped me the wink, and the scoop was mine for the taking etc etc, but sheer laziness prevented me from doing anything about it. Paranoia also, in that it would be the work of moments to identify my sources, and then I’d be responsible for them probably losing their job. I think it’s an impressively bold development, and a step very far in the right direction. It could backfire horribly, and the book-buying public could have become so conditioned to the concept of the 3 for 2 offer (which was replicated in every other chain bookshop) that they take their custom elsewhere (but where?), but I don’t think anything else could have signalled James Daunt’s intentions so definitively that he wants to turn this company around. Not just financially, but culturally – and I suspect that’s going to be the harder task.