I'm taking a brief moment to escape the insanities which come with the 'get-in' of a festival. This week its Cheltenham Science Festival (7th-11th June), and I have to say from what I can see from my office it looks rather fun. I'll be making a temporary switch from literature to science for the next few days while I work on the Science Festival, and may even get round to reading a few scientific type books (I'm rather pleased that one of the events I'll be working on is with Gavin Pretor-Pinney the author of the Cloudspotter's Guide - I like the idea of cloudspotting, it sounds faintly therapeutic for want of a better word.)
In the meantime we've been discussing the Orange Prize for Fiction. According to the Observer Zadie Smith (On Beauty) is the favorite to win, but I've yet to find anyone who liked it, better to go away and read Howard's End instead; I've read the Ali Smith (The Accidental), and although a very fine novel I'm not sure if I think it a little too clever for its own good, but the prose is wonderful and the voice of twelve year old Astrid is outstanding; then there's Sarah Waters (The Night Watch) no denying its a good and popular book, I like the structure, and there are some exceptionally beautiful moments, but, but ... does it have the edge? Of the other three I've heard very good things about Hilary Mantel's Beyond Black and the book is currently staring at me rather intently from the shelf to my left, just catching my eye whenever I answer the phone: when we first discussed the shortlist a month ago it was this book which I said would win, I've no idea why. My ability to comment on the The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is rated at zero since I've very little idea what it is about and I've never read anything she's written. Then there is Carrie Tiffany with Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living - if there were a prize for best title this would win it - which I read over the weekend, a wonderful book in everyway, a brilliantly pitched underlying humour, an understanding of the complexities of failure - however minor and of whatever type -if you haven't got a copy, why not?.
This year's shortlist has been called one of the strongest in the prize's history. Its a bit of a squash of literary talent in there. You can see the prize ceremony via webcast between 6.30pm and 7.30pm tonight.
Oh and just in case you were wondering we're vying for Carrie Tiffany.