You wait all year and then two mega literary events come along on the same day.
Battle of the Books
Tomorrow is Super Thursday in the UK, the busiest day in the publishing calendar; the day when publishers issue more titles than on any other day in the year. It’s an attempt to capture a sizeable chunk of the lucrative Christmas market by trying to guess what we want to find wrapped in glitzy paper come Christmas Day.
What can we expect from this deluge? Predictably the 383 titles published in hardback tomorrow, we’ll find the usual tranch of celebrity related books: memoirs from my fellow Welsh compatriot Tom Jones (already being heavily promoted here) as well as the comedian Steve Coogan and actor Brian Blessed. Not to be outdone, the celebrity chefs will be crossing ladles with new offerings from Gordon Ramsey, Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater and (of course) Jamie Oliver. If your tastes in non fiction run to something more challenging, Dan Cruickshank’s A History of the World in 100 Objects might be more the thing, or perhaps the second volume of Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher. In fiction we’ll get new works by the ever popular Bernard Cornwell, Robert Harris and Martina Cole. This year will be the best festive book offer in years, according to The Bookseller. Credit cards at the ready – go shop!
The Nobel Prize
Also tomorrow, the Nobel Committee announces the 112th winner of the prize for literature. The committee reviewed nominations on behalf of 198 writers from professors, academics and previous Nobel laureates.
Only one person will be deemed to meet the stipulation contained in Alfred Nobel’s will that the award goes to an individual who has produced “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction …”. The accolade is given not for individual works as with The Booker Prize but for a whole body of work.
Among the names being touted for this year are Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Haruki Murakami, and the Kenyan dissident author Ngugi wa Thiong’o (his name has been in the running for several years). But the 18 members of the Nobel Committee for Literature are good at pulling the unexpected out of the hat so won’t necessarily go for the big names. Henry James missed out for example as did Leo Tolstoy and Henrik Ibsen. Last year the surprise winner was the French author Patrick Modiano.
This year sees 36 names who have never previously been nominated. We’ll have wait a long time before discovering who they are however; the statutes of the Nobel Prize stipulate their names are disclosed only 50 years later.
We’ll know at 1pm Swedish time who gets the accolade this year. Who will you be cheering on?