Book Watch

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The Independent Culture
Much excitement this week over the discovery of the female answer to Vikram Seth. Seth transfixed the literary world three and a half years ago with his mammoth tale of Lata's husband-hunt, A Suitable Boy. Now Arundhati Roy has become the first Indian woman to hit the top rank. She has won advances of half a million pounds for her 400-page first novel The God of Small Things. Roy admits to bewilderment at the frenzied reception to her book, which recounts the death of a small girl in south India through the voices of her twin cousins. Philip Gwyn Jones, editorial director of Flamingo Books, which bought the UK rights for more than pounds 150,000, said: "It's a masterpiece. It proves that real literary genius will always win through, even on a first book."

The judges of the 1996 Booker Prize for Fiction have met to select their longlist of novels. Traditionally this is the time when the first rows, controversies and inexplicable exclusions of worthy books are reported, and this year is no exception. The Bookseller reveals that AS Byatt's Babel Tower and David Malouf's The Conversations at Curlow Creek have failed to make it on to the list. Surprising inclusions, meanwhile, are Ben Elton's Popcorn and Diran Adebayo's first novel Some Kind of Black, a semi-autobiographical tale of a black Oxbridge undergraduate. Carmen Callil is chairing the judges.

Phaidon Press is following up The Art Book, which won the British Book Award prize for illustrated book of the year, with The 20th Century Art Book. Like its predecessor, this beautiful work, to be published in October, is no snip at pounds 25 - but any book that is such a pleasure to possess is worth it. Phaidon swears there were no arguments over which artists to feature: the exhaustive list ranges from the likes of Bacon to Koons and Whiteread.