Ladies in orange
March 7, 2012 § 1 Comment
Earlier this week, Farmlanebooks put out a list of the twenty books that she thinks could make the Orange Prize longlist on Thursday. I’ve reviewed a couple (Anna Funder’s All That I Am and Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr Fox), but haven’t actually read any of the other books on her list.
Perhaps I’m unusual, but I don’t find the covers of this selection (and no doubt of the actual longlist) very appealing. Too many of the books look as though they are falling between the cracks of “literary” and “appealing to women” (because the two categories couldn’t possibly overlap). I have trouble choosing books in bookshops for precisely this reason, which is why I mostly come to the novels I read by being intrigued by a review and then reserving the books at the library, all without ever noticing the cover. I find my shelves of French novels, with their mostly plain covers, reassuringly literary-looking, even though those covers are a no more reliable indicator of quality of contents than atmospheric landscapes or whimsical pen drawings, but look, aren’t they attractive?
Nonetheless, I’m eagerly awaiting Thursday’s announcement, even though there are rarely big surprises with this kind of thing (and when there are surprises, they aren’t always good) Often when shortlists are announced, I think “Really? These are the best books in the country/world/year?” and then have a disappointed mope about why there is so much averagely good stuff and so rarely anything genuinely brilliant. I plough through so many books that I vaguely enjoy reading, always hoping for that rare shiver when I realise that this author really gets it, that this book is going to be in my life forever, and look at that, it’s already forcing me out of bed in the middle of the night, pen in hand, scrabbling for a scrap of paper to jot down some crucial idea before it evaporates in the dark. But perhaps it’s better this way. If there was more genius around, what would we do for the thrill of the chase?