Between the Covers 03/06/2012

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books

The Orange Prize for fiction looks set to hold on to its title as the friendliest book prize in the literary calendar, if not its formal name, with Orange stepping down as sponsor after this year's ceremony.

In her acceptance speech, the winner Madeline Miller (The Song of Achilles, Bloomsbury, £18.99) thanked the usual publishers, agents and friends, plus her fellow shortlisted author Ann Patchett (State of Wonder, Bloomsbury, £7.99) for the loan of her dress. Patchett, who won the prize in 2002 for Bel Canto, could not attend the ceremony because she was away on a book tour, but "she was so generous", said Miller. "She said, 'I have this orange dress ...'." It fitted perfectly, but (a Bloomberg reporter later discovered) did not have any stray novel notes left in its pockets.

***

Reliable sources report that sponsors really are queuing up to take on the prize. When Orange officially stepped down, we're told, "the phone started ringing off the hook". However, unlike the Booker – now Man Booker – Prize, the Orange will not keep its first sponsor's name. Guests at the party at the Royal Festival Hall hoped that the reception will continue to be supported by Taittinger champagne, above, and that the canapés – famously some of the most substantial on the literary circuit – will keep coming. "There are more snacks, right?" a male guest was heard to panic as the winner was announced. "All I care about is the snacks. Oh ... and the literature."

***

Royal books are, for some reason, popular in the charts this weekend, with Nicholas Allan's The Queen's Knickers currently the 21st best selling book on Amazon. (The top 20 seems to be occupied almost entirely by books by E L James or George R R Martin: the more initials, the higher the sales.) The Book of Royal Useless Information by Noel Botham and Bruce Montague (John Blake, £10.99) is one of the nosier titles, reporting her majesty's vital statistics; How the Queen Can Make You Happy by the etiquette expert Mary Killen (Elliott & Thompson, £8.99) one of the more optimistic; and the Jubilee Bible by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, who have produced just 60 goatskin-bound, gold leaf-tooled copies of the Bible on which Queen Elizabeth II took her oath of allegiance in 1952, perhaps the most exclusive. But the historian Juliet Nicolson seems to be bucking the trend. Her book Abdication (Bloomsbury, £16.99) is published on Thursday.

***

The results of Mslexia magazine's "Are you a book fetishist" survey appear in this week's edition, and make for interesting reading. Two thirds of respondents are definitely fetishists, who like to sniff their books and always file them alphabetically, while a third are "book sluts" who "leave books open face-down, scribble in the margins, shove them higgledy-piggledy on to their shelves." One confessed: "I once tore a book in half down the spine so that my friend could read the first half while I was finishing the second." Mslexia's investigators are surprised by the pervasiveness of the fetishist tendency, the editor Debbie Taylor tells Between the Covers. And quite horrified, we assume, by the news that one in four of their readers admits to bluffing about reading a book they haven't read, one in five has hidden a book she was ashamed of reading, and one in 14 has (whisper it) stolen a book from a library.

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