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Weekly Roundup: Booksellers prepare for the "Man Booker Bounce"

Weekly Roundup: Booksellers prepare for the "Man Booker Bounce"

For those who like a literary flutter there is still a decent chance for a book to change your life; that's if you'd fancy a bet on the long-listed books before the odds shorten with next Tuesday's shortlist announcement. The most generous odds to be found at the time of writing are 20-1 for Ned Beauman's The Teleportation Accident and Sam Thompson's Communion Town. The measliest are for Hilary Mantel's Bring up the Bodies at 3-1.  

In her memoir Almost an English Life published yesterday, Miriam Gross, the former literary editor and one of the judges who chose Ian McEwan's Amsterdam for the 1998 prize, recounts how she first met her husband Sir Geoffrey Owen, a previous editor of the Financial Times. “I had long given up on the notion that I would meet anyone resembling Mr Right, or indeed that there was such a thing. But in 1991 I found myself, by a miracle, seated next to this very person at a dinner. It was, in fact, a Booker prize dinner.” The winner that year was Ben Okri but Miriam Gross's prize was just as valuable.

Booksellers are preparing for the “Man Booker Bounce” – the sales boost that traditionally comes with the shortlist announcement. Since 2006 the biggest leap was at this point in 2011 when sales increased by 139% (the lowest was in 2007 when an 8% increase was less of a bounce than a very small hop).

Anita Desai (shortlisted 1980 and 1984) in The Guardian gave a reason writers should not be put off by headlines: “One review was headed 'What use is Anita Desai?' and began with the answer: 'Lots'. That was encouraging!” Meanwhile Rose Tremain (a judge in 1988 and shortlisted in 1981) in the Daily Telegraph offered would-be authors a pithy antidote to the adage “write about what you know”. No, she says, “write about what you don't know”. This message brings us back to headline writers, taken to task by Anne Chisholm (judge 1993) in a piece in The Guardian about the letters between Iris Murdoch (winner 1978) and the moral philosopher Philippa Foot. The correspondence has led to lurid accusations of Sapphism but, says Chisholm: “To highlight one aspect of a correspondence is distorting: it isolates one strand of a life that was more varied, emotionally and intellectually, than most.”