The Guardian announced the finalists for its reader-nominated Not the Booker Prize this morning. As I’ve had occasion to say before, literary prizes are just another way of advertising books. The anti-establishment spirit of the Not the Booker is as feeble as complaints about sexist TV commercials.
Even so, one of the nice things about the Guardian’s prize (the winner gets a coffee mug) is that nominations must be accompanied by a defense of the novel in not-less-than 150 words, although Sam Jordison said that the paper “had to be pretty lenient with the rule.” Unexplained “complications” would have ensued otherwise. “So long as people have had a decent stab at writing something,” he admits, “we’ve accepted it.” I can’t make up my mind about that phrase decent stab. After 20 years in the college classroom, I know that a stab can be decent, and yet awfully messy. Still, the Guardian has made a decent stab at replacing book enthusiasm with at least some book discussion, and that’s worth something.
Jordison swears that he will publish his own reviews “within a week.” Desperate for informed recommendations, hungry readers will be waiting impatiently.