Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Booker Prize: Barnes-storming

So, it being Booker night, of course the first thing we did was go to the Corinthia Hotel, for the launch of a new, warts- and-all  biography of a certain Boris Johnson. I wasn't really sure what the book was, but Ken Livingstone was there looking ineffably smug and carrying a tank of newts, as was Brian Paddick (looking less so and without newts). There were fish-and-chips canapés, which I would have enjoyed more if I hadn't managed to drop most of them on the floor, and champagne with blue sugar smeared around the edge of the glass, which meant that as we sipped our glasses we all looked either as if we were trying to seduce each other by slowly licking the rims, or as if we were, well, a bit simple.

It was apparently very difficult to get into the Rebel Alliance Party, what with the armed guards and everything (sorry that should be Independent Alliance - Faber, Atlantic, Canongate etc.), so we went first to the Jonathan Cape party, thinking that if august Cape author Julian Barnes won, we'd be in the right place, and if he didn't, then we were in striking distance of the other two. They always have their party in the same place, which is in an alleyway somewhere in the eighteenth century (you have to ask a taxi driver, they'll not be happy but they'll take you).

Julian Barnes: Solid stallion
Lots of young novelists were present and correct - Chloe Aridjis; Adam Foulds and James Scudamore (both wearing backpacks and looking as if they were about to climb Kilimanjiro); Leo Benedictus, with whom I chatted amiably about the Booker list; the literati were also out in force: Suzi Feay was there in a marvellous fur coat, as was Michael Prodger, although he didn't have a fur coat, as far as I know anyway.

I missed the actual announcement of the winner, but heard the yells of glee (from where I was standing outside) as it was announced that eternal Booker bridesmaid Julian Barnes had snatched the gong from the clammy hands of the other five. I must say, to give a prize to an established author for what isn't his best book when the list that you're intending to make is meant to be full of new and exciting "voices" which "reach out" to the general public is a little bit odd, but I am very pleased nonetheless.

Barnesy himself made an appearance, black-tied up (having of course been to the fancy Booker dinner). "Bingo!" he said as he came in. He is absolutely charming - I say this because when I found myself rammed up against him and said something ineffably inane ("I think you're like a really good novelist? And I really like admire you? Did I mention that I'm like a novelist too?") he didn't mind at all.

So well done Mr Barnes, it's well-deserved; my only reservation being that the competition wasn't much up to it. Thank the lord A D Miller didn't get a look in.

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