One-Minute Book Reviews

September 9, 2008

Ghosh and Barry Make 2008 Man Booker Prize Shortlist – O’Neill and Rushdie Shut Out – Read the Full List of Finalists Here

Filed under: Book Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:47 am
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Judge boasts in blog that “we had all got our cojones back, a bit” as panel kicks Netherland and The Enchantress of Florence in the nuts

The judges for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction have announced the six finalists for the award, the winner of which will be named on Oct. 14:

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

The losers included Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland and Salman Rusdie’s The Enchantress of Florence, which emerged as the favorites of London bookies after being longlisted for the prize in July www.themanbookerprize.com/prize/thisyear/longlist.

The bookies at the William Hill agency in London immediately named Barry the 2-1 favorite to win the Man Booker, which carries a cash prize of 50,000 pounds. The odds-makers at Ladbroke’s called Aravind Adiga the favorite with Linda Grant close behind www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1136. “We were convinced that the winner would be either Joseph O’Neill or Salman Rushdie and are amazed that neither even made the shortlist,” a spokesman for William Hill said. “As a result it looks like a very open competition with everyone in with a chance.”

Read about the six finalists for the Man Booker Prize at
www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1134.

Read about the shortlist selection process in a blog by judge Louise Doughty, including her boast that “we had all got our cojones back” at www.themanbookerprize.com/news/blog-judges-08.

Read reviews of all the books on the 2008 Man Booker shortlist from major U.S. and U.K. newspapers here www.reviewsofbooks.com/booker/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

September 7, 2008

London Bookies’ Favorites for 2008 Man Booker Prize Shortlist

Filed under: Book Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:02 pm
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UPDATE, Sept. 9, 2008, 3:30 p.m.: After the shortlist was announced today, London bookies listed the odds for the eventual winner of the prize:
William Hill has named Sebastian Barry the 2-1 favorite to win the Man Booker Prize in October. The odds-makers at Ladbroke’s called Aravind Adiga the favorite with Linda Grant close behind www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1136.

Netherland has 3-to-1 odds in its favor with a leading betting agency

Was it Hurricane Gustav? In my wisdom I didn’t think to Google “bookies’ favorites” + “2008 Man Booker” + “shortlist” before predicting that Joseph O’Neill’s novel Netherland would waltz into the final six on Tuesday. Now that I’ve hit the “Search” button, it seems that I am far from alone in my view. In fact, it appears that only people who don’t think Netherland will make the shortlist are those who think that “God Save the Queen” is the national anthem of Venezuela. But even with the 3-to-1 odds in his favor, O’Neill will be far from a sure bet to win if he makes the finals. He was born in Ireland and an Irish writer, Anne Enright, won last year. And he’s become a U.S. citizen, which could work against him if the judges are among the many Brits whose favorite insult for the former prime minister was to call him “President Blair.”

Note: Other favorites of those placing bets with the William Hill agency, in order, include Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence, Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44, Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture and Linda Grant’s The Clothes on Their Backs. Click here for the bookies’ odds on all the titles on the Booker longlist announced in July
www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1108.

Update: After William Hill posted its list, the Ladbroke’s betting agency released a list that named Rushdie the favorite and ranked O’Neill third. Read the Ladbroke’s list here www.themanbookerprize.com/news/stories/1111. Rushdie won the 1981 Booker for Midnight’s Children.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

2008 Man Booker Prize Finalists To Be Named Tuesday — Jan the Hungarian Predicts That ‘Netherland’ Will Make the Shortlist

The latest in an occasional series of posts in which Janice Harayda, a former vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle, predicts the winners of or finalists for major book awards*

The six finalists for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction will be named Tuesday, winnowed from among the titles longlisted in July www.themanbookerprize.com/prize/thisyear/longlist. If Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland doesn’t make it, it will be a shocker that’s the literary equivalent of the Sarah Palin selection in reverse. It’s not so much that the book is one for the ages — though it’s the best 2008 novel I’ve read — but that it’s so much better than most Booker finalists. (Who can forget that the 2007 Man Booker judges gave us one finalist, Lloyd Jones’s Mister Pip, that was written at a third-grade reading level? And that this was a frontrunner for the award that eventually went to The Gathering.) A review of and readers’ guide to Netherland appeared on this site on June 24 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/. Check back around 5 p.m. Tuesday for the shortlist or a link to it.

*under a nom de guerre inspired by that of the late Las Vegas odds-maker Jimmy Snyder, better known as “Jimmy the Greek”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

June 10, 2008

During Yesterday’s Power Blackout in New Jersey, Life Imitated ‘Netherland’ Imitating Life

Update 7:05 p.m. Tuesday: Another power outage! I have just been “evacuated” from the library, in the words of the staff, for the second time in two days. This happened during the weekly Open Mic night in the library cafe, where a guitarist had just finished singing “The Mighty Quinn.” (This is our library’s unofficial anthem, played at every Open Mic. What’s your library’s anthem?) The new outage struck less than 24 hours after yesterday’s blackout ended. This power failure seems less extensive, though, because the traffic lights are only flickering, not out. Luckily I have tomorrow’s post written, so unless a catastrophe occurs, it will go up by morning.

Further update 1:15 p.m. Wednesday: A state of emergency has been declared in Essex County, NJ: www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2008/06/100000_pseg_customers_still_in.html. If you can’t access that Star-Ledger site, you can find a lot of information and pictures of the damage on the local news site Baristanet www.baristanet.com.

We know the lights went out, but we don’t know many people had that “we’re-all-going-to-die-sex”

Have your life and reading ever intersected in an uncanny way? More than 75,000 of us lost power yesterday after a fire broke out in midafternoon at an electrical switching station in West Orange, New Jersey. The blackout brought out a lot of people’s latent Eagle Scout: The library in my town evacuated all the patrons, but the staff soldiered on, and until the police showed up, a businessman in a pinstriped suit directed in traffic in 90-degree heat.

But there was no possibility of doing any serious writing – I have a Mac with a battery prone to sudden-death failures when the charge falls below 33 percent – so I headed over to an air-conditioned pizza place in a part of town that still had power. I settled in with my half-finished copy of Netherland, Joseph O’Neill’s elegant novel of life in New York City after September 11, 2001, and found myself reading a description of the August 2003 blackout that struck much of the Northeast.

In the scene, Hans, the banker who narrates the novel, goes up to the roof of his residential hotel in Manhattan, where tenants have gathered to watch night descend on a city bereft of power. He meets a man who predicts, in effect, that the city will turn into Lord of the Flies during the outage. Hans reflects:

“But in fact, as everybody knows, the blackout gave rise to an outbreak of civic responsibility. From the Bronx to Staten Island, citizens appointed themselves traffic cops, gave rides to strangers, housed and fed the stranded. It also transpired that the upheaval provoked a huge number of romantic encounters, a collective surge of passion not seen, I read somewhere, since the ‘we’re-all-going-to-die-sex’ in which, apparently, everybody had indulged in the second half of September two years previously – an analysis I found a little hard to accept, since it was my understanding that all sex, indeed all human activity, fell into that category.”

I don’t know how much of the “we’re-all-going-to-die” sex we had here in New Jersey yesterday. But I do know, now that I’ve finished Netherland, that on nearly every page you’ll find writing as good as you do in that passage.

To read a longer excerpt from and find the reading group guide to Netherland, click here www.randomhouse.com/pantheon/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307377043.

To read about yesterday’s power blackout in northern New Jersey, click here www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2008/06/30000_without_power_in_essex_c.html.

© 2008 Janice. Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 9, 2008

‘Netherland’ Will Win the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, Jan the Hungarian Predicts

Filed under: Jan the Hungarian Predicts — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:48 am
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The first in an occasional series of posts that predict the winners of book awards

By Janice Harayda

You know how how Simon Cowell said long before the finale of the fourth season of American Idol that Carrie Underwood would not only win but go on to sell more records any previous winner? Here’s another prediction you can take to the bank:

After reading half of the book, Jan the Hungarian predicts:
Joseph O’Neill will win the next National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for his novel Netherland (Pantheon, 256 pp., $23.95) www.randomhouse.com/pantheon/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307377043.

Netherland is good enough to win more than one major prize. But what it gets may depend partly on O’Neill’s citizenship. He was born in Ireland, raised mostly in Holland, received a law degree from Cambridge University, worked as a barrister in England and lives in New York. If he’s an American, he’s eligible for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction. If he’s Irish or English, he’s eligible for the Man Booker. This site predicts he will win the NBCC prize because for that one, citizenship doesn’t count. If your book is published in the U.S., you can win if you’re from Alpha Centauri.

It’s true that good novels get passed over all the time for awards, and literary prize–giving is only the loosest of meritocracies. But there’s a kind of “good” that judges can ignore and a kind they can’t.

This is the kind they can’t, especially when you have two dozen or so judges as the NBCC prizes do. The National Book Award for fiction has five judges, so the phrase “Winner of the National Book Award” can mean, “Three people really liked this book.” Or even, “Two people really liked it and leaned hard on a third.” One or two people with a cause can push a National Book Award in a direction that has nothing do with merit. When I was the book editor of the Plain Dealer, this happened at least once and led to a bitter public squabble after the awards ceremony. A larger panel of judges could favor a writer of high distinction like O’Neill.

You might wonder: How can you predict that a book will win an award you’ve read only half ot it? One answer is that 50 percent of Netherland is far better than 100 percent of most recent novels. Another answer is that – you’ll have to trust me on this one – some awards judges may not read more than half the book. In that sense, half the book could be a perfect basis on predict a winner.

Janice Harayda is an award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the Plain Dealer and a vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle www.bookcritics.org. Jan will review Netherland soon. Please see yesterday’s post for why she is using the handle “Jan the Hungarian” for her predictions. She predicted on May 10 that Pale Male will get serious consideration for a Caldecott Medal, but she regards that race as “still too close to call.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

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