Friday, April 09, 2004

British book Awards aka Nibbies

This week the British Book Awards were... well, awarded. Like all such ceremonies, this one was designed purely and simply to obtain cheap publicity for books and publishers, and it seems to have succeeded tolerably well. Some newspaper coverage and a whole hour on Channel 4 at 5 p.m. on Good Friday. But listen, since hardly anyone reads books these days that wasn't too bad.

Just so long as nobody takes the damn things seriously, that's all.

Out of the multitude of books nominated for the various awards, I appear to have read two. First is Alexander McCall Smith's The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. This was first published in 1998, by a small firm called Polygon, but apparently that doesn't count. This year it was republished by one of the big boys, who, as everybody knows, are the only important people in publishing, so it gets to be regarded as 'new'. Smith got voted author of the year on the strength of it, and good luck to him. In case you haven't already heard, and goodness knows it's had acres of press coverage in the past few months, Smith's book is about a detective agency run by an African lady in Botswana. I wasn't actually all that struck by it. It was interesting, certainly, but I didn't rush out to find copies of the others in the series.

The other book that I've read is Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This one got two Nibbies:children's book of the year, and the literary fiction award. For my money, the book was far too long for its material, particularly in the second half. It is written in the first person, by a boy who is autistic. Many of the people this boy has contact with find him pretty tiresome and difficult, and I must say I felt much the same way. However, judging by the comments on Amazon I am in a minority.

No, I didn't watch the show on Channel 4. I was not even tempted by the fact that, on a previous TV appearance, the hostess (Judy Finnigan) parted company with the top half of her dress. The show was not broadcast live, and even if it had been the producers - bearing in mind the Janet Jackson debacle - would no doubt have built in a five-second delay. As any prudent person would. Dammit.

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