So I finally got my hands on the brochure to accompany the German Book Prize longlist, long overdue. And it's beautiful. Last year's brochure looked like a trade fair leaflet - a generic couple sitting on a bench with blue skies behind them, cheap paper, unimaginative layout. The content, of course, was fine stuff, but you kind of had to get past the appearances first. Now it's a really sexy little book, smaller pages so it weighs heavier in your hand, a plain black cover with a window onto the logo, a classy typeface. Ach!
And the content! You know those dull author portraits you get on the programme at readings or at the back of books? Born in Zurich in 1967, the author studied art history and wrote her first novel at the age of 24. She now lives in Berlin with her family. Well there's none of that here. The lovely Wolfgang Schneider and Holger Heimann have put together witty mini-biographies to front the extracts, plus you get an introduction by Schneider, an interview with a former judge, a piece by the writer Georg M. Oswald and a charmingly gossipy "Why didn't my book win?" article by the publisher Jochen Jung. The extracts are shorter than the mammoth sections available online - which is a good thing, believe you me. And they're also more representative of the books themselves rather than simply chucking the first chapter or two at the reader. Many thanks to KMS for making me get off my backside and get hold of it. If you can, do.
Of course now that the shortlist is out the world will forget all about the longlist, save for a few stickers on covers and forlorn displays in bookshops. The critics at Die Welt, meanwhile, have put together their own alternative shortlists for the book of the year. There are some great titles here: Kehlmann's Ruhm of course, but also Thomas Klupp's Paradiso, Thomas von Steinaecker's Schutzgebiet, Julia Schoch's Mit der Geschwindigkeit des Sommers, and many more. In fact many of the writers highlighted here are younger than the newspaper's target demographic by a long shot.