HOW will we remember 2006? As the year Kiran Desai won the Booker, or the year that David Mitchell didn't? For the return of Thomas Pynchon or Hannibal Lecter? Given there are so many awards, prizes, commendations, best-ofs and authorial accolades, I've set up a few of my own. We spend so much time praising the good, it's a shame not to devote time to oblivion, obloquy and the outrageously bad.
Most Pretentious Comment
This year's winner was Alberto Manguel's Book of the Year contribution to the Times Literary Supplement: "The most remarkable book I've read this year was recommended to me by Cees Nooteboom: a 50-page-long essay by the Hungarian scholar Lszl Fldnyi, Dosztojevszkij Szibrban Hegelt Olvassa, s srva fakad (Dostoyevsky reads Hegel in Siberia and weeps). I have no Hungarian, so read it in a Spanish translation." We were impressed that although he confesses to having no Hungarian, Manguel chose to reproduce the title in that language.
Most Shameful Moment in Publishing
Judith Regan, formerly of HarperCollins, thought it a dandy idea to get OJ Simpson to write his "hypothetical confession", If I Did It. Pulled by Rupert Murdoch after widespread revulsion, rather than admit her lapse of judgment, Regan said she felt the spirit of OJ's (alleged) victims, and decided to publish "because I wanted him, and the men who broke my heart and your hearts, to tell the truth". And not at all to make a profit.
Critic with Angriest Bee in Bonnet
Goes to Neel Mukherjee, whose tirade against Irvine Welsh's Bedroom Secrets Of The Master Chefs almost made us feel sorry for the middle-aged erstwhile rebel. Beginning by claiming the book was "so awful that... it invents its own category of awfulness", Mukherjee warmed to his theme in a crescendo of indignation ("lazy, dishonest") ending "those howls of rage of his early years have turned to the empty baying of a dog. Take him away". In his defence, Mukherjee is right.
Least Comprehensible Cultural Decision
BBC Radio Scotland has axed its only dedicated literary programme, Cover Stories, and trimmed The Radio Caf down to four days a week. Given that books and radio are non-visual media that encourage active imaginations, this Philistinism is disheartening to say the least.
Most Transparent Cash-In
With countless teenagers of all ages waiting for the final Harry Potter novel, David Langford was quick out of the traps with The End Of Harry Potter - an entire book of speculation of what might happen in Book 7 (Big Clue Folks: Voldemort will probably die).
Langford didn't, unfortunately, manage to predict the title - The Deathly Hallows. A more interesting game of conjectures might be how JK Rowling can leave room for a sequel. Or sequels.
Funniest and Least Consequential Spat
Many valiant efforts, but the snickersee between Susan Hill (representing the blogging community) and John Sutherland, Rachel Cooke and an unnamed London literary editor took some beating. With accusations ranging from "Literary Reviewers are a Sinister Cabal intent on Suppressing the Proletariat" to "Blogging is the Green Ink of the Cyber-savvy", it was full of sound and fury, and signified nothing. The more pressing issues around the internet - boring old things like copyright and high-discounting - were swept away in a torrent of tantrums. This one seems set to run well into 2007.