There is a very interesting analogy on the blog of Howard Davies, the Chair of this year's Booker Prize judges. He is discussing the final meeting where the long list choices were made
"The atmosphere in the judging room was somewhere between a book club and a maternity ward. What could be more agreeable than a freeform discussion of 110 novels, when you know that everyone else in the room has read them all and - even better - is obliged to display at least a polite interest in your exciting views? The only fly in the conversational ointment is that you are under the cosh to deliver 13 favourites at the end of it all.
Around five o'clock we gave birth, with Ion Trewin as an unlikely bearded midwife"
Well you know what's coming next don't you? How useful is that because I can pick up Howard's theme and run with it.
For anyone who doesn't know this, here in the UK once a baby has been born and the midwife has nurtured them along for about ten days she will ring the health visitor (me) and hand the care of the family over onto that caseload where they stay until they are five years old and off to school.
Now I'd prefer not have thirteen newborns handed over in one go and I'll admit I'd probably do a double take if the midwife was bearded down here in Devon, but if the Booker Prize demands such prolific multiple birthing then who am I to argue?
So what to make of this year's longlist?
Well I've loved it and I've relished the reading challenge. I've grown very fond of this manageable row of books in front of me on my desk. Arguments and cynicism rage about the standard and predictable range of the books with their token gestures towards all corners of life, but as a representative selection of what's out there, and some of it less than obvious, perhaps this list ranks as the one that has spawned a new breed of Booker book.
New breed? Well they are all readable for a start, except that memorable one for me and I think I'm probably off A.N.Wilson's Christmas card list (but I don't think I was ever on it) You wouldn't be disappointed to find yourself stuck on a long train journey with these, in fact several make it worth going on one specially so that you could read them cover to cover.
Some have moved me, some have challenged, some have enthralled and some have made me smile but the moment has come for my shortlist, which is probably more of a wishlist, because I'm well aware that the judges may have an entirely different remit to mine.
Darkmans by Nicola Barker
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
Self Help by Edward Docx
The Gathering by Anne Enright
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
Animal's People by Indra Sinha
I think it's interesting that John Self over at Asylum and I have come up with almost identical lists.I doubt either of us expected that and many thanks to John for a great joint reading blogventure. Clicking on the titles will take you to my reviews, clicking on the author will take you to John's.
The Gathering by Anne Enright might be an acquired taste for many (but it was spot on for me the day I picked it up) but I can heartily recommend all of these as good, thought-provoking, enjoyable reads, many with hidden depths but not so hidden that you feel like the billy-no-mates who hasn't been invited to the party.
So we await the judges shortlist with bated breath later today.
As for my winner?
Oh no, if I told you that I'd have to kill you, makes you want to slap people doesn't it?
I shall declare on the day and these and a few more thoughts about Bookerthon 2007 from dgr on The Bookseller website here.