Friday, October 21, 2011

Life as a Book Juror

The Telegraph just published an article by one of the jurors of The Man Booker prize in which it was revealed that the readers had to finish 138 books in seven months. That's two books every three days. Since the average novel clocks in at 250 pages or so, that's 166 pages a day. Every day. If one is otherwise busy for a time -- meaning, if one has a life -- and can't manage to read the 166 requisite pages, that means 332 pages the next day, or 190 pages every day for the next week. These are the people who're entrusted to make fine distinctions, thoughtful ones, about what they're reading, and to weigh those distinctions against the other 137 books in creating a detailed evaluative list.

(I work, socialize, write, etc, the same, I imagine, as the other jurors on this, and other, prize commitee(s); I manage to read about 40-60 pages a day, but then I don't skim, and I often reread what I've just experienced, as well as pausing, out of pleasure or confusion.)

Or one could just read five pages and pitch it in the "out" tray if the beginning isn't catchy. Or if it's from a publisher one's had mediocre experiences with. (The extension to this is Saul Bellow's remark on "The New York Review Of Each Other's Books.") Or if the jacket copy mentions zombies or grief-stricken daughters of alcoholic rural retirees. Or if one chances upon a great novel not on the list during those seven months.

Or one could just excuse oneself altogether from the masochistic ordeal.

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