Bookies and the Booker

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These last couple of days I’ve become fascinated (fellow Blurberati would say obsessed) with the feverish betting on the Man Booker Prize, one of the trickiest literary prizes to predict. Usually previous nominations plus widespread acclaim for previous efforts make an author a magnet for prizes. But ever since the Booker went to a young upstart novelist and sometime ad copywriter named Salman Rushdie for Midnight’s Children (one of my top 10 all-time favorite books), this contest has become the one to watch … especially for bookish bookies.

Last year’s winner John Banville took home £50,000 – which he promised to spend on “good work and strong drink” in a BBC article – and has since sold an additional 500,000 copies of his Booker-winning novel The Sea. Banville was the Vegas longshot at 7-1 against Kazuo Ishiguro’s 4-1 odds (for the wonderful Never Let Me Go). Don’t know about you, but that news left me with a peculiar mental image of high-risk-lit-loving Elvis impersonators gleefully tossing their wigs all along the Strip.

Today one author will be considerably richer – and so might readers playing the long odds in this year’s Booker Prize contest, reports Reuters. This year the favorite has been Sarah Waters for The Night Watch, though according to late-breaking BBC news, Kirin Desai was gaining ground with The Inheritance of Loss at 3/1. But the competition so far has been very tough to call: author David Mitchell didn’t make the shortlist for the much-praised Black Swan Green, but first-time novelist Hisham Matar did for In the Country of Men (a coming-of-age story set in Gaddafi’s Libya).

This just in: The 2006 Booker Prize has gone to Kirin Desai, the youngest ever Booker Prize winner at 35. In an intriguing twist of the usual prize-giving logic, the 2006 winner is the daughter of Anita Desai, who has been nominated for the Booker three times, but never won.

All you literary gamblers out there: did you win any Booker Prize money? What will you spend it on?

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