Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Man Booker Prize Olympics, Part the First

When the Man Booker Prize 2013 longlist was announced in July, Susan suggested that we do some sort of editorial post involving it. This prize is awarded to the best original full-length novel written in the English language by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Republic of Ireland, or Zimbabwe. Wow. So what does that mean? To oversimplify, it means a book by an author with a British-ish connection. Confused about United Kingdom vs. Great Britain vs. the Commonwealth? Here, watch this lovely, enlightening video an English friend introduced Alyssa to a couple years ago: We’ll wait while you click through and check it out. See, don’t you feel more educated now? And now we all have a better idea of where a Booker book might come from! According to the interwebs and general opinion, this prize is of great significance to the book trade and avid readers everywhere because it’s prestigious and the winner is “generally assured of international renown and success” (thanks Wiki!). Additionally, the prize is greeted with “great anticipation and fanfare,” and it is a “mark of distinction for authors to be selected for inclusion in the shortlist or even to be nominated for the longlist” (thanks again, Wiki!).

Despite all this prestige and renown and general puffery surrounding the Man Booker, we soon realized that we had actually read very few nominees or winners. In fact, Alyssa can only name two off the top of her head (Life of Pi and Bring Up the Bodies, in case you were wondering)! As you might imagine, this put a temporary damper on our dreams of a Booker Prize post. It took a couple weeks of the Booker bouncing around inside our brains before we came to the brilliant realization that we do not have to have read or even heard of the majority of Booker books to be able to write about them. In fact, we could perhaps have even more fun than anticipated thanks to the fact that we are not Booker experts! And so was born the idea for the Booker Olympics.

The Booker Olympics is a series of silly, nerdy games involving nominees and winners, past and present, that we hope you will be able to enjoy whether or not you are familiar with the books and authors in question. You might even discover a new book to check out as a result of this ridiculousness! It could get crazy. WHO KNOWS!

The First Event

For our first event, we considered the longlist nominees for 2011 and 2012. Here is how our cunning plan worked: Susan found the longlist for 2012, used Amazon and Goodreads blurbs to formulate a short plot summary for each book*, and then scrambled the list of titles and the list of plot summaries to create a matching game. She then passed this matching game off to Alyssa, who had had no contact with the 2012 list, then had to engage in much confusion and head-scratching to figure out which book went with which blurb. Alyssa took the 2011 list and made a similar game for Susan.

* We discovered that it can be difficult to write a two-sentence plot summary for a book one has never read. Weird, right? We tried, and apologize to any books for which we might have made mistakes in our mini-blurbs. All we can say is, stop having such complicated and/or vague plots!

Booker 2011 Game photo Booker2011Game_zps26eac5f6.jpg
The matching game for 2011; looks like an easily distracted 3-year-old made it.

Booker 2012 Game photo ScrambledBookerLongList2012_zps8cdaf646.jpg
The matching game for 2012; looks like an vastly intelligent super-computer made it.

Wait, what’s that you say? The game looks super fun and you want to play, too? What a coincidence! We just so happen to have made an online version of these games on Sporcle so you can play along with us. Stop your googling right now (no one likes a cheat!), and if you would like to test yourself with the 2011 Booker longlist, click here. If you would like to try with the 2012 list, click here. Or get really crazy and play BOTH. Can you beat our scores?

Speaking of our scores…well, you can’t see them yet. But you can see what our (very colorful) answers were. Feast your eyes on these psychedelic responses:

 photo feb21b92-4191-44e1-97da-7aed22f3b055_zps4be7e020.jpg
Susan’s answers to the Alyssa-made quiz.

 photo dd0cc0e8-2bfc-450b-bdfd-3bca63ff713f_zpsaf24000c.jpg
Alyssa’s answers to the Susan-made quiz.

So, how do you think we did? Do you think guessing a book’s plot based solely on its title ended up being harder than we anticipated? Let’s get right to it. Drum roll, please…

 photo 4b81debb-14b4-4b06-9a13-ff432b64d7dd_zps418b4a90.jpg
Susan got a cool 38%, which converts into the much more impressive-sounding 5 stars!!!

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Alyssa managed 58%, or 7 stars!!!

Whew! Probably safe to say we’d both be failing Booker school if we didn’t study. But in our adventures creating this game, we found ourselves intrigued by some of these past nominees—Skios, The Teleportation Accident, The Stranger’s Child, and The Sisters Brothers might be coming soon to a to-read pile near you (despite the decidedly average reviews Booker nominees tend to get on GoodReads). The answers to the games are included in the Sporcle quizzes, so there’s probably no real reason for us to post links to the key for 2011 and the key for 2012, but in case you’re a visual learner or maybe just think it’s fun watching us do primitive photo manipulations in Photobucket, there you go.

How did you do? Have you read any Booker Prize nominees or winners? Any of these sound intriguing enough for you to seek out?

Oh, P.S., here’s a hint to whet your appetite for the forthcoming Part Deux of the illustrious Booker Prize Olympics: Balderdash. Hmm…

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