Finally Booker Prize day arrives and I can almost hear you groaning 'Oh well alle - *&£$%* - lulia and thank God for that...'
The process does feel so long and dr-a-a-a-wn out I'll admit, though hands up I haven't talked about if for weeks now. I was carted off long ago jibbering and booked into my annual post- Booker rehab, clutching a prescription for a prolonged course of 19th century reading therapy which thankfully never fails.
Us Booker addicts start trying to spot 'hopefuls' from...well from October 1st really and it's downhill all the way until the following July. Then this interminable summer of long and short listing before we finally hit prize day.
You can but feel sorry for Hilary Mantel who came right out and proclaimed herself sick with anticipation weeks ago, comparing the wait for the shortlisted authors to those interminable summers spent waiting for exam results.
I have to admit that watching the Guardian's Not the Booker alongside the real thing has been the most entertaining sport going too, beats Strictly any day. Leaving it to the nation to decide a winner is like standing on top of a smoking, rumbling Vesuvius and saying 'go on then', little encouragement needed for the thing to blow. Disgruntled authors then appear who feel their book has been degraded by insinuations of vote-rigging, poor Sam Jordison must be at least three stone lighter and hairless by now.
It's also been very interesting to see this weekend's Guardian squeezing in last minute pieces on Simon Mawer and Adam Foulds as potential Booker dark horses, but to me this year feels like the closest run short list for a long time, and I would personally not be in the least disappointed to see any of the contenders win.
It's fashionable to knock the Booker as elitist claptrap, someone always does and year on year the whole caboodle takes some stick for being a bit 'out there' on a reading planet of its own, nothing to do with ordinary readers who are all supposedly made to feel a bit lesser in the reading stakes, as if we might somehow not be quite up to the eventual choice.
I'd agree with a few in recent years but definitely not this year, well not here anyway.
Bookerthon 2009 has all been a joy, the books an inspiration to read in their own various ways, especially where I've had the chance to hear the authors speak or where they have kindly answered the dovegreyreader asks...questions. Then the books have fair bounced into life and moved my thinking into another dimension.
The debate has been fascinating and varied around the blogs too; taking the books out there and talking about them. I know I'm inclined to go off on an emotionally subjective frolic of my own, so my corner is often the 'let's all dance around about this book' one, but debate out there on the blogs is two-way, it's far-ranging and intelligent. There has been some great discussion in comments here for which I thank you and, though I only have time to visit a few others, I know John Self's Asylum has offered his usual stellar standard of appraisal and KevinfromCanada has done likewise before returning to home tundra with his Giller Prize shadow jury. Countless others have girded their loins and joined the annual Bookerthon, a word actually invented here incidentally to cope with my own addiction back in 2006.
I read those early endeavours of mine now and cringe, but it takes years to train up for these things and this is for pleasure after all.
Opinions have been polarised about several books this year, no one book seeming to garner unanimous praise, several taking a respectful hammering from some quarters and undying praise from others, which all makes up that conglomeration of different readers that we are.
As to the winner, well despite the bookie's predictions (I have this vision of people called William Hill and Paddy Power sitting down with the pile and reading them) I think the smart money is on Coetzee, Foulds or perhaps Mawer, but I gamble with a slightly different currency, heart money, and it's on Byatt, Mantel or Waters but which one?
I couldn't possibly jinx the book's chances by saying.
Every year I say I'm not doing this again and every year I do and I love it.
Meanwhile, unless I've missed something in this evening's TV schedules, I will be hovering over the BBC 10pm News tonight for those precious crumbs of coverage they set aside for us Booker faithfuls, usually about a minute.
James Naughtie will be standing there in his Sunday best waiting for his cue...
Kirsty Wark will be talking over the speech going on in the background, then 3-2-1 ANNOUNCE and one of the world's most prestigious literary awards is hurriedly presented to the winner who then fights their way to the platform from their table having hugged and mwah mwahed all and sundry along the way.
And I'll be crying with tears of joy as Hilary Mantel embarks on her emotional vote of thanks of which we hear half a sentence before things move swiftly onto the look-away-now football results and the weather.
Oh drat...did I really say that?
Sorry Hilary, I didn't mean to.