And I called it here.

That is, Sebastian Barry and I did.


And I.

(Allow her a moment of fantasized grandeur, will you?)

From Sebastian Barry’s ‘On Canaan’s Side’

Oncanaansside  I know, I know, I know… I've already expressed I'd give Sebastian Barry the Booker for his handsomeness alone, but never mind that. I received On Canaan's Side today, ripped open the box and started it immediately. Never mind, you others! Sebastian Barry is here.

His every sentence is a line of poetry, his every paragraph a perfect and complete poem:

"… But I was able to sit down here at the kitchen table, the Formica beaming the sun on into the hallway behind me, like a great flat stone of light bounced on the sea.

And be thinking, remembering. Trying to. All difficult dark stuff, stories stuffed away, like old socks into old pillowcases. Not quite knowing the weight of truth in them much any more. And things that I have let be a long time, in the interests of happiness, or at least  that daily contentment that I was once I do believe the mistress of. The pleasure in something cooked right, just the small and strangely infinite pleasure to be had from seeing, from witnessing, a tray of freshly baked biscuits. Like I had just completed the Parthenon, or carved Jefferson into a rockface, or maybe the contentment, the very sinews, of the bear when he digs a salmon out of the water with his paw. Mightily healing, deeply, and what else could we have come here for except to sense these tiny victories? Not the big victories that crush and kill the victor. Not wars and civil ructions, but the saving grace of Hollandaise sauce that has escaped all the possibilities of culinary disaster and is being spread like a yellow prayer on a plump cod steak – victoriously."

This is perfection. It gets no better than this – gives me the shivers.

Do I dare call the Booker already? It's taking everything I have not to. He's been shortlisted twice. It's time he's given his due. I haven't even finished the book yet! Not even halfway through. I'll be dissolved into a pool of tears before I'm done, at this rate.

I'm marking all over every page, highlighting all the beautiful words and phrases. Hardly anything is left white.

My nerves will be shattered between now and the shortlist, from then 'til the announcement of the winner. It's painful!

Back to the book…




Booker Prize Longlist – 2011


The Booker Prize longlist was announced while I was away on vacation:

Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape – Random House)
Sebastian Barry On Canaan's Side (Faber)
Carol Birch Jamrach's Menagerie(Canongate Books)
Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers(Granta)
Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail)
Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld)
Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger's Child (Picador – Pan Macmillan)
Stephen Kelman Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)
Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days(Seren Books)
A.D. Miller Snowdrops (Atlantic)
Alison Pick Far to Go (Headline Review)
Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press)
D.J. Taylor Derby Day(Chatto & Windus – Random House


Not unusually, I haven't read one of them. In fact, I haven't even heard of a single damn one except Jamrach's Menagerie. The rest could be made up for all I know.

Still, the urge to read some of the longlisters is upon me, because I am (puffing out chest) a pretty good hand at picking winners. I love to be right. It makes me feel superior, you see, due to the sorry state of my self esteem.

So far I'm thinking:

Definitely YES on the Julian Barnes, Sebastian Barry and Alan Hollinghurst, on general literary principle. The Sebastian Barry's partly because I think he's incredibly attractive, plus he once sent me a nice note after I talked up one of his previous books, which is highly gracious of him.

He writes beautifully, too.

Sebastian Barry, attractive

Problem, though, the Julian Barnes won't be published here 'til 2012. I could buy it from the UK, but with the value of the dollar against the pound it would cost roughly $ 200 M.


Ditto Sebastian Barry! Oh, it's a knife to the heart!


Sebastian Barry, attractive

And same with Alan Hollinghurst. (Note: he's already won once. Would the Booker committee award the same writer twice?)

Bloody hell.


Carol Birch, yes, because I've heard of your book. Oh, and it sounds good, too.

Patrick DeWitt, yes! How irresistible it sounds! Plus, read the reviews. Jesus!

Esi Edugyan, sorry, no. Unavailable in the States, plus it sounds a bore.

Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats? Apparently available here, but it just screams I AM NOT GOING TO WIN. Kirkus declared it "pellucid," and what the hell does that mean? If you can't find a real word to describe a book it's obviously crap.

Stephen Kelman Pigeon English? Yes! Emma Donoghue liked it, and I like Emma Donoghue. She's brilliant, gracious, and gives one hell of a good book reading. Also, Kelman's author promo photo looks very intense. He looks like a good sort to pop 'round to the pub with, someone who'd be a good conversationalist and pay my taxi fare should I imbibe too much and start singing Monty Python songs, because he's British and I think he should enjoy them.

Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days? Not available here, but that's okay because I know I wouldn't like it.

A.D. Miller Snowdrops? Think I'll pass. Even the reviews bored me.

Alison Pick Far to Go? Sounds completely depressing. Though, there is this review:

'Clean, crisp and unencumbered. Pick … creates small moments that are both lovely and frightening … It's very deftly structures and the storytelling is seamless' — Globe and Mail

Oh, Christ.

Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb? Not to be found on our shores.  Sucks, though. It sounds good enough.

D.J. Taylor Derby Day? Apparently can't get it here, plus I'm not sure it will make the cut.



Barnes, Barry (!) and Hollinghurst - Amazon.uk, here I come.

Birch, DeWitt, Kelman – YOU WILL BE MINE.

Anyone else joining the Booker frenzy? You may use my scientific method of calculation if you'd like to cut the list down a bit. I don't mind, as I have other factors I use, anyway, and those are more accurate for fine-tuning, thus completely proprietary.

Oh, do it! Don't be a bore.

I'll report as I read, and once the shortlist comes out on September 6 will re-adjust as necessary. At that point I'll probably be able to give my prediction, unless I haven't finished reading my six.



P.S.:    I know! Exciting!


Sebastian Barry, attractive