And so the days are filled...

13 October 2006

Literary prize update

I was out with a friend last night and got out my diary to put a future event into it. Exclaiming over how small my diary is, she (cheekily) pointed out that I must not have very many appointments. I protested - only the most important things to remember go in my compact little diary!

Friend [incredulous, looking over shoulder]: "Does that say Booker Prize?"
Meg: "What, what are you talking about Booker Prize?"
F: "There, on the 10th. Oh my god, is that the day the prize was announced? You put the BOOKER PRIZE in that TINY DIARY?!"
M: "Doesn't everyone put the Booker Prize in their diary?"
F: "So who won, it was that young Indian woman wasn't it, I saw it on the news. I thought I might like to read that book."

[Meg scribbles mental note; birthday of friend coming up later in October; buy Kiran Desai's Inheritance of Loss for friend]

That's right. You heard it here first (or for the 475th time), Kiran Desai took out the prize. While it wasn't my favourite of the 4 (out of 6) shortlisted books I've read, it also wasn't my least favourite. And I must admit, since writing my ambivalent review last week, my thoughts have returned to the book repeatedly, to mull over certain passages, characters, and choices the writer made. It is a very fine book in that sense. Though maybe only my 3rd favourite of the 2006 Booker picks I've read so far, that still puts it in my top 5 or so for the year, certainly. And sometimes the very best books bowl you over weeks after you put them down. I like a good betel nut of a book, one you can mentally chew on all day long.

In other literary prize news, the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced earlier this week. Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk received the honour. My library, I am pleased to find, holds 4 of his novels in English, 1 non-fiction work, and additional copies in Turkish and Chinese.

A friend who specialises in training psychologists and counsellors in multicultural issues once told me one of his training activities - to test how aware of other cultures you are, have a look at the list of past Nobel Prize winners and see how many you've read. (Obviously this test will favour those who read!) It's an interesting exercise - you can have a go yourself, here's the list. I think I'm up to 28 but I must admit, those are nearly all writers from the USA and UK (and 2 Aussies), so I could do some catching up on my multiculturalism!

And to clear the literary to-blog topics for the moment, I must tell you that I read the Booker longlisted selection, The Perfect Man by Naeem Murr. It's one of these books set in a very small town where everybody's got a secret to hide and most of the townspeople have some tragic flaw or other. Does anybody know of a real town like this? Because there seems to be a lot of books written on this premise, none as fine as Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. This book was no Winesburg. The character of Raj in The Perfect Man was an absolute delight, but the rest of the book left me counting the pages until the (sickly happy) end.