Costa Kicks Booker's Butt

on Thursday, November 17, 2011
Just when you thought it was safe to click your way back to B4BW without having to hear me rant about literary prizes, along come the Costas. But wait... You're never going to believe it. I actually like the shortlist! In the year that the Booker Prize committee criminally failed to recognise a number of awesome books, Team Costa have picked up the slack. Actually, I'm really only talking about one book: Pure by Andrew Miller. One of the great Booker bridesmaids, poor Andy probably thought he had it in the bag when he wrote his best novel since Ingenious Pain. But no, instead they go and give a nod to the other Andrew Miller (aka A. D. Miller) for his lacklustre Russian 'thriller', Snowdrops. Perhaps they just made a clerical error on the day they announced the long list and then felt compelled to keep up the ruse by pushing it all the way to the shortlist. Apparently egg is much harder to spot on people's faces from such lofty heights.

Anyway, I'm gunning for the real Andrew Miller to take out the Costa for best novel. He'll have stiff competition though. The other shortlisted titles are John Burnside's A Summer of Drowning, Louisa Young's My Dear I Wanted To Tell You and the great, giant-killing midget of a novel, Julian Barnes's The Sense Of An Ending. It's interesting to note that only one of the four was considered by the Booker committee and it was the one that went on to win the bloody thing. Another Booker longlisted novel has made it to the shortlist for the Costa Prize for a First Novel. Patrick McGuinness's The Last Hundred Days is facing off with the much-hyped City of Bohane by Kevin Barry as well as Christie Watson's Tiny Sunbirds Far Away and Kerry Young's Pao.

Both Costa fiction lists are interesting, considered and, ironically, more literary than the Booker shortlist. I've always been a fan of the Costa Prize (and its previous incarnation, The Whitbread Awards) and this year really rams it home. By picking up the other prizes' slack, the Costas might yet become the premiere British literary award. Which, I guess, would make the Booker the ultimate bridesmaid.


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