………. I hope you noticed the nice mix in the titles for this post – the classic false modesty from the comedian Jack Benny followed by my own unlimited arrogance and vanity in announcing “my book of the year awards!!!!”
In a way though starting this post with Jack Benny is rather appropriate – his first words on Ed Sullivan’s radio show in the US in the early thirties was supposed to have been “This is Jack Benny talking. There will now be a short pause while you sit at home thinking - ‘who cares?!”.
It just fits perfectly for:-
“This is my Book Of The Year Awards” post and there will now be a gap of at least two lines…
……….while you have a chance to think – who the hell cares!!!!!
But if you reached this line you must be intrigued, so stick with it till the end – you won’t be disappointed!
Well…..actually….. you might be disappointed at the end, but I’ll leave a couple more empty lines so I can think “So you’re disappointed! What the hell do I care?!”
And so my awards! I’ve read a lot of good books this year, heard some great music, seen some great gigs – and eaten some lovely pies! So here are my awards for 2012!
1. TV Programme Location of the Year
The award goes to BBC’s “Waterloo Road” which is now filmed at “Greenock Academy”, my old school in Scotland. It allows me to indulge in spotting familiar walls, corridors and pupil toilets – which instead of impressing my daughter actually bores her rigid!
If you can get over the fact that they moved the school from England to Scotland and took all the kids with them into a sort of cult-cum-boarding unit, then the best of all is that while the BBC have tarted the building up for the fictional school, the quality of the teaching in the fictional school looks just as shite as I remember it being in the real school!!!
2. Book Week Of The Year
Much as I enjoyed the Muriel Spark Reading Week, the award for me goes to the Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week, which Annabel’s House of Books hosted back in June of this year. I’d not read any of Beryl Bainbridge’s stuff before-hand – I loved it – quirky and sharp and just wonderful. It turned me from a Beryl-virgin to a Beryl-lover almost overnight!
3. The ‘Well Bugger Me I Didn’t Know That!’ Award for 2012
Thanks to book blogs I read quite a bit about the centenary of Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1912. And through that I discovered that Birdie Bowers, who accompanied Captain Scott and was one of those who died alongside him at the end, originally came from my home town of Greenock in Scotland. We seem to make little of the connection which is odd to say the least as Greenock isn’t exactly bustling with well known explorers, actors, sportsmen, politicians or well known anythings! Anyway it led me to read a bit about his life – truly amazing man!
4. Best Bit Of Poetry Learned Off By Heart This Year Award
I’ve loved several new collections this year but my favourite was Seamus Heaney’s “Human Chain!”. And from the poem ‘Route 101′ I loved learning the following lines (and love boring people to death reciting them!)
“In a stained front-buttoned shopcoat / Sere brown piped with crimson / Out of the Classics bay into an aisle / Smelling of dry rot and disinfectant / She emerges, absorbed in her coin count / Eyes front, right hand at work / In the slack marsupial vent / Of her change – pocket, thinking what to charge / For a used copy of Aeneid VI. / Dustbreath bestirred in the cubicle mouth / I inhaled as she slid my purchase / Into a deckle edged brown paper bag”
5. The “Terrific” Award (for books that aren’t my book of the year but came bloody close and so deserve again the accolade of my favourite word!)
Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller and The Museum Of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk were both
A Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry were both
Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Books One, Two and Three) were all
HHhH by Laurent Binet and If This Is A Man by Primo Levi were both
Heartburn by Norah Ephron and The Art Of Fielding by Chad Harbach were both
6. The “I’m Really Sorry But I Thought This Was Bloody Awful” Book Of The Year Award
Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From The Goon Squad”. I just didn’t get it! I guess I’m not clever enough. Sorry Jen!
7. The ‘I Love Guy Garvey Of Elbow More Than Anyone Else Does’ Award
With apologies to my mate Steve Smith in Thailand, who fancies himself as a big Elbow fan but can’t be taken seriously as he chose to desert Guy and go live the life of Riley on the beaches of Thailand teaching people to dive (get a proper job you old fart!) and with my apologies to Guy Garvey’s girlfriend, the writer Emma Unsworth, the award for the person who loves Guy Garvey more than anyone else does, goes to – ME!
8. The Album Of The Year
Dead easy – the beautiful, wonderful, gorgeous “Mid Air” by Paul Buchanan – have a quick listen!
9. Gig Of The Year
This is harder – I’ve seen Elbow a couple of times this year but I have to say we were absolutely awe-struck by the magnificent Bruce Springsteen at the Isle of Wight festival – we watched it knee deep in mud and didn’t give a shit! Truly wonderful!
10. Dive Of The Year
But for the runner-up you can choose any of half a dozen or more spectacular dives from that muppet Luiz Suarez!
11. Pie Of The Year
There’s nothing to beat Marks and Spencers! They have the gorgeous Twiggy in their ads, the fabulous sound of Dervla Kirwen doing the voiceover for the food commercials and their pies are great. This year my favourite was the individual Steak and Cornish IPA Ale pies – so fantastic if you gave me a choice between Twiggy, Dervla or the pie, it would be the pie every time!!!!!!!!!!!!!
12. Shite Gig But Chilli Con Carne Of The Year Award
We were unfortunate enough to see Coldplay at the Emirates earlier in the year – bloody awful! I should have known. I saw Coldplay when they were starting out, just after the Yellow album was released – they were at a lovely intimate venue at Brixton Academy – and yet they were bloody awful then as well! However we left the gig early and discovered the Chilli of The Year, washed down with Guinness, at a lovely little pub in Finsbury Park!
13. Comeback Of The Year
This is a close run thing between two of my favourite men of books – the mercurial genius that is Roy Race, scourge of every team on the planet in his role as Roy Of The Rovers – and the mercurial genius that is Detective Inspector John Rebus, scourge of every criminal and low-life in Edinburgh and it’s environs in Iain Rankin’s novels- and as a Glaswegian it’s my job to say disparaging things about the good folk of Edinburgh! But since I thought Iain Rankin’s ‘Standing In Another Man’s Grave’ was brilliant, the winner for me is John Rebus! Plus as he has won it allows me to have a couple of pints and a couple of whiskies to honour his achievement! If Roy Of The Rovers had won I’d have been forced to go down the park, beat all the kids at “3 and you’re in!” and then do at least 100 on keepie-uppie – and I’m much more of a five beers than a five-a-side man these days!
14. And finally, my Book Of The Year
I’ve read so many that have been terrific but one just noses ahead – not by much, but by enough to be the read of the year for me – the beautiful story of Jack and Mabel in The Snow Girl by Eowyn Ivey.
Now I’d said earlier in the year that I would choose a book of the year – and in my own version of the Costa Prize, that I’d buy the winning author a coffee. And I’d like to be true to my word – so if Eowyn Ivey ever reads this and fancies collecting this illustrious prize, I’ll meet her any week day by the Cafe Nero coffee stall in Victoria Station – I’m in the queue most mornings around half past seven – the lattes are on me Eowyn!
And having started with the acerbic wit of Jack Benny on awards, I’d like to end with the acerbic wit of my partner. On the day that the New Year Honours were announced she initially amazed me by saying she’d love to be nominated for an award – and when I expressed astonishment as this didn’t fit with her strong principles and said “Really???????????????????” she replied – “Yeah! So I could then tell them to stick their award up their arse!!!!!!” – That’s my girl!
So if Eowyn Ivey tells me where to put my offer of a free latte as my Book Of The Year, I’ll understand completely!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!