How can you possibly enjoy not winning something so much? (Is it allowed?) Several reasons, these among them. May-Lan Tan’s Things to Make and Break being on the shortlist in the first place, exceeding all realistic expectations by far. The winner, Colin Barrett, for Young Skins, being himself such a terrific writer. The company, the people in the room, and in particular the presence among them of so many readers – members of the reading groups from around the country who had read, discussed, taken to heart, all of the books on the shortlist, and whose meetings with the authors were, I think, something special for both parties.
And the morning after – today – the TLS, the Books of the Year issue, in which four critics choose three CBe titles:
Thomas Adès: ‘I was gripped and awed by Will Eaves's The Absent Therapist (CB editions), touching, addictive and unlike any other book.’
Beverley Bie Brahic: ‘Agota Kristof's The Notebook (translated by Alan Sheridan, CB editions). It embarrasses me to say I’d never heard of The Notebook until its reissue, along with Nina Bogin's translation of The Illiterate, Kristof's memoir. The Notebook is a great book, in the absolute.’
Eimear McBride: ‘CB editions’ reissue of the much neglected The Notebook by Agota Kristof is the book I have not been able to stop thinking about all year.’
Ferdinand Mount: ‘At Maldon (CB editions), J. O. Morgan's version of the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon, has all the clash and clang of War Music, and the same odd modernism to bring you up short – bin-liners, cricket balls, umbrellas. My ears are still singing with the gurgle of Saxon blood. Morgan is a worthy inheritor of Logue’s broadsword.’
Oh, and David Collard’s review of Things to Make and Break. You’ll have to buy the issue for the whole review, because I’m too tired to tap it out, but this bit for free: ‘That May-Lan Tan was recently shortlisted for the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award is surprising. She does not write badly about sex – she writes very well about bad sex, which is not the same thing. And not only bad sex – it’s sometimes disturbing, sometimes funny, always refreshingly explicit and, in one episode, spell-bindingly weird and transgressive. And she writes in character, often with quite dazzling ventriloquial skill.’