Submitted by Arthur on Fri, 2016-11-11 13:48
Of course the Man Booker is not about money, even though it carries a £50,000 reward and the guarantee of a stratospheric sales boost. Nevertheless, in the wake of Paul Beatty's win some clever number crunching has been going on: it emerges that owners of first editions of the past 16 MB winners would have seen a staggering return of 826 per cent on their outlay. Had you bought shares in Microsoft to the value of £262.84 (the total RRP of the 16 books) your return over the same period would have been a measly 114 per cent. Unsurprisingly, signed copies provide the best returns: inscribed first editions of Beatty's The Sellout, which retailed at £12.99, were fetching around £345 – a 2,556 per cent increase – within a day of the announcement. By far the most valuable Man Booker winner, however, is Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, with first editions reaching £600 and a signed first edition a gulp-inducing £1,100 or increases of 3,060 per cent and 5,693 per cent respectively. Time to check out every second-hand bookshop one can find in case of a hidden treasure. And how to spot a first edition? All books carry a number line on the publication page – 1 7 3 2 5 etc… if the sequence starts with a 1 it's a first edition.
Some consolation for Madeleine Thien. She may have missed out on the Man Booker but the pill may be sweetened by the award of the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Do Not Say We Have Nothing in her native Canada. She had previously picked up the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction, so two prize wins and an Man Booker shortlisting is not bad going at all. One of the writers Thien pipped was Emma Donoghue with her novel The Wonder: like Thien, Donoghue knows what the Man Booker experience feels like, she was shortlisted in 2010 for The Room. One of the Giller judges, incidentally, was Samantha Harvey, Man Booker longlisted in 2009 for The Wilderness. You can run, it seems, but the Man Booker will find you.
The award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan continues to rattle cages. In a recent piece various bookish bods were asked to nominate other songwriters worthy of recognition as poets. The Poet Laureate Carol Anne Duffy went for Cole Porter, The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr went for Lou Reed while a couple of Man Bookerites were also involved. Andrew Motion, Man Booker chair of judges in 2010, perhaps misunderstood the nature of the proposal when he chose . . . Bob Dylan, commenting on the old growler's ‘Concentration of language, formal expertise of one kind or another, and a clever balancing of articulacy and mystery.’ Amit Chaudhuri, a Man Booker International judge in 2009, plumped for John Lennon and especially the post-Beatles Lennon who made records as if they ‘were meant to have no listener but Lennon, counsellor to his own pain, assessor of his own worldview’. It was Polly Sampson who made the most timely choice in light of the sad news of the great Canadian's death – picking Leonard Cohen. She sagely pointed out, pace the Dylan chatter, that ‘most great lyrics work because they are wedded to the right piece of music and the union of their parts is more potent as a song’. It was Cohen who performed this alchemy best.
The Man Booker's non-fiction sister, the Baillie Gifford Prize, is awarded this week (15 November). One of the judges, Jonathan Derbyshire, executive comment editor at the Financial Times, wrote a recent piece for his paper in which he dealt with the view that for pointers as to a winner pundits should look not at the books but at the judges. Ah, yes, clever. But then, he noted: ‘If you look at the composition of this year’s Baillie Gifford panel, for example, it is not easy to infer any general principle of selection: our chair is a former BBC economics editor (and old Financial Times hand) turned banking analyst [Stephanie Flanders]; the other members, aside from me, are an Oxford don [Sophie Ratcliffe], an author of popular science books [Philip Ball] and a former Number 10 adviser who now plies his trade as a tech entrepreneur and bookshop proprietor [Rohan Silva].’ So, back to sticking a pin in list of names it is.