Last Tuesday the Booker prize long-list 2011 was announced. When Peirene turned up at work on Wednesday morning I asked her what she thought of the long-list.
“I have better things to do than look at that long-list. I am not interested in the Booker,” she replied. “It’s only for English-language novels anyway.”
“True,” I agreed. “But still, have a look.” I sent her the link. She scanned it quickly.
“I haven’t read any of the books.” She said with defiance in her voice. “You know I have real issues with these big prizes. Bread and circuses for the mass market. All so predictable.”
“I haven’t read any of them either. But you don’t have to. Just look at the list again, something really exciting is happening this year.”
Peirene stared at her screen again. Then the coin finally dropped.
“Wow! Nine of the thirteen titles are published by independent publishers.” She exclaimed. “Canongate, Faber, Serpent’s Tail, Granta – I know. Our friends from Oneworld – fantastic. But who are Seren Books and Sandstone Press? I’ve never heard of them.”
“There are tiny presses, just like us. I had to google them,” I admitted.
“That is brilliant.” Peirene was suddenly excited.
“Perhaps the tide is turning. Perhaps people are wanting more diverse reading experiences than the big publishing houses can offer – and if so, our books will soon be flying from the shelves.”
Peirene has been a bit down on our books recently. “I love my books,” she told me only at the beginning of the week. “But we have to hand-pick every single reader. At least that’s what it feels like to me. And there is a limit how much we can do. After all a day only has 24 hours. We have not yet managed to get a Peirene avalanche rolling.” I reminded her that we’ve only been going for 15 months. A reputation takes time to spread.
Since Wednesday, however, all her woes and worries seem to have vanished. She is now even ready to take on World Book Night. The Nymph has been scheming and is encouraging readers on twitter and facebook to vote for Beside the Sea as one of their 10 top choices.
“ I thought you didn’t like World Book Night?” I asked her, slightly astonished by her change of heart.
“If the Booker is changing tune, maybe World Book Night might be too.”
“And what if Beside the Sea is chosen? We can’t possibly afford to print 40 000 copies and give them away for free!”
“Let us get to the bridge first. Then we will think of how to cross it.”
I like the Nymph’s newly-found go-and-get-it attitude. And I’d be thrilled to get to the WBN bridge. I am just a little terrified how to cross to the other side.
Image by rosedeniz.