Between The Covers: 23/10/2011

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

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The Independent Culture

*The books blogger, Suzi Feay, has listed her Top 10 Booker moments and one of them, naturally, has to do with Jamie Byng.

The ebullient Canongate publisher approached her at the Groucho Club many years ago, she writes, brandishing a novel which he guaranteed was the new big thing. The book, Yann Martel's Life of Pi, went on to win the Booker in 2002. Byng was on typically enthusiastic form at Tuesday's Man Booker ceremony, this time raving about a new book that he picked up at the Frankfurt book fair. Put together by a pair of "bibliotherapists", this one is about the consolations of literature and will apparently change your life. You heard it here first. Oh, and Byng's top Booker Moment? Having a pee next to an about-to-be winner, just before the announcement was made. "He looked nervous," apparently.

*Unlike the ultra-successful Life of Pi, some of Canongate's promises do not come to fruition. We were reliably informed over the Jerusalem artichoke soufflé with black truffle purée and cep cappuccino that a Canongate editor had vowed to streak across the Guildhall's Great Hall if a book from an independent publisher didn't win. With four novels from indies on the shortlist of six, the editor must have thought that he was on to a safe bet, but then Julian Barnes's The Sense of An Ending, published by the Random House imprint Jonathan Cape, won. Disappointingly, everyone at the Canongate table kept their trousers on. Between the Covers knows the name of this coward, and is prepared to keep it secret provided that some alternative entertainment is suggested. It had better be good, though – at least one of the reticent editor's authors was most let down not to have seen his bottom.

*Also disappointing was the news from novelist Justin Cartwright, whose book In Every Face I Meet was shortlisted for the Booker in 1995. Halfway through the white and dark chocolate mille-feuille with poached whole orange purée and stem ginger ice cream, Cartwright revealed that he has been approached to appear as a contestant on BBC 2's Celebrity Bake Off...but has turned the producers down. Carter explains that, despite the convincing cup cake scene in Other People's Money and his excellent cooking skills, he is really not expert in baking and would rather stick to his speciality, roast chicken. His friends are in despair. ("Fifteen novels," he sighed, "and the one thing that impresses them is Celebrity Bake Off.") Cartwright is currently working on a screenplay, after which he hopes to get to work on another novel. Perhaps when that is finished and wins next year's Man Booker Prize, he will have time to star in Celebrity Come Dine With Me 2012.

*Congratulations to The Independent on Sunday's ace book reviewer Christian House, who has managed to be at the winning publisher's Booker night afterparty two years in a row by virtue of the fact that he reviewed, and recommended, both winning novels in these pages. Of Barnes's new winner, he wrote: "The result is adroit and unnerving and Barnes's keen intellect has rarely been so apparent." His view of last year's winner, The Finkler Question, was that "[Howard] Jacobson cunningly crafts sublime pathos from comedy and vice versa." Unfortunately, Christian and the other guests at Jonathan Cape's party were not the first to hear that their author had won. They were listening to the news on a radio with a slight delay, and the winner was first announced to the party via Twitter.