Between the Covers: 11/03/2012

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

They call the Orange Prize the "friendliest" literary prize in the country, and so it proved when the longlist was announced on Thursday, also International Women's Day. While one corner of the Twitter empire was busy tweeting more and more creative and catty things that #jonathanfranzenhates (a response to the novelist's calling Twitter an "unspeakably irritating" and "irresponsible medium" that "stands for everything I oppose"), Orange longlisters all seemed to be happily celebrating each other, other novelists, women in general, and most things. Jane Harris (@blablafishcakes) tweeted Roopa Farooki, Erin Morgenstern and AL Kennedy (@writerer) to say: "Go us!" Farooki was stunned to be in "such amazing company". Stella Tillyard was "very happy", and the mimosa in her yard, a symbol of Women's Day in many countries, was also looking "splendid". Even AL Kennedy, the hardest working and most comedically glum novelist in Britain, seemed a little bit happy. To begin with. "Morning to all the people waking up as longlistees," she tweeted. "And everyone else also. And now. Rest of the day. Another train... Sheessh."


Between the Covers can't wait to receive an advance copy of Philip Hensher's Scenes from Early Life (Fourth Estate, 12 April); he says that it has "eau de nil endpapers". You don't get that on an iPad, no matter how HD its "retina display".


The average book has about 64,500 words, according to the American trade magazine Publishers Weekly. Animal Farm has a mere 29,966 words. Lolita has 112,473 words (but lots of them are short, such as "Lo"). War and Peace is massive, with 544,406 words. Brave New World is exactly in the middle, with 64,531; 50 per cent of books have fewer words and 50 per cent have more words. We're yet to discover any practical use for this information, but suspect that many book geeks are secretly maths geeks too, so we pass it on for your amusement.


There is good news and bad news for fans of David Nicholls, the author of One Day, The Understudy and Starter for Ten. A self-confessed internet addict, Nicholls once wrote for this paper about his lack of willpower when it comes to online distractions: "It's coming up to the third hour of the working day when I find myself slowly scrolling through someone else's party photos and I realise that I have a problem ..." Now, he has told Facebook friends that he is giving up the social networking site – at least for a few weeks. "I'm sure I'm not alone in this," he typed, "but somehow I've developed a facebook-twitch, checking it far too often, walking down the street even – ridiculous. It's a terrible habit, as is neurotically checking for non-existent emails every three minutes in case of some imaginary server-problem, and so I think I'm going to take a break for a few weeks. Starting tomorrow of course. Facebook, I suspect, will survive." Naturally, Nicholls' friends reacted with cries of horror; he is a frequent and amusing poster, who will be missed. But he is not for turning. "I'll miss the messages, along with the invitations to Farmville, the pictures of cats with inspirational captions and all the stuff about football," he says. "But instead I'm going to take up something useful, like chess, Pinterest [an online pinboard] or crack cocaine. I tried twitter. Twitter nearly killed me. Don't get me started on Twitter ... I remember when I used to read." Looking on the bright side, let's hope that we can look forward to the next novel from Nicholls in record time.