Today’s 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction may go to a penalty shoot-out according to a leaked report from the judging panel. ‘We expect a hung jury,’ says panel member Professor of English Dr F R Levies, ‘and a sudden-death goal-fest seems like the fairest way.’
Favourite in the short list line-up to win a penalty shoot-out is J M Coetzee, whose Summertime has only 272 pages. ‘The wily South African knew when to stop writing,’ points out Dr Levies. ‘He has a clear advantage if the decider comes down to who can boot their novel past the defending judges. Coetzee will also be hoping to score his Man Booker hat trick.’
‘It will be terribly exciting if the shoot-out is between him and Adam Foulds’ The Quickening Maze, also with 272 pages.’ Hilary Mantel, with her 672-page Wolf Hall, is resigned to losing a shoot-out. ‘I have a 400-page disadvantage,’ she wept. ‘It’s just fortunate that War and Peace isn’t on the short list,’ said Dr Levies, ‘otherwise we could have a severely disabled Russian writer on our conscience and books.’
Supermarkets say there has already been a run on white wine, Rose wine and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. ‘People have been stocking up for a night in on Tuesday,’ said a spokesman for Tesco. ‘The country seems to be preparing to shut down, so great is the interest in the Man Booker.’
People with small television sets are expected to huddle around them. Man Booker enthusiast Cynthia Rush recalls that last year she got carried away in all the excitement. ‘I admit I rather overindulged on the chardonnay and chocs,’ she says, ‘and threw-up all over my husband’s copy of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger.’
The organisers are hoping there won’t be a repeat of last year’s violence when members of the notorious Bloomsbury Group attacked supporters of a rival novel with rolled-up copies of the TLS.
Because of the recession, the usual prize of £50,000 has been dropped for that of a £10 book token exchangeable only at B&Q. But Dr Levies admitted that a penalty shoot-out – although novel – isn’t the best way to decide a prestigious literary prize.
‘It would be so much easier if it was a prize for non-fiction,’ he sighed. ‘Then we could easily settle the matter by choosing the book just on its position on the Dewey Decimal Classification.’
6 Oct 2009