What happens when you’re up for a lit award and they announce the winner and you just lost—and worse still, the world just watched you lose. Your fans are disappointed, your enemies are sneering , your publisher sighs over what could have been… A Booker judge dishes on how to be a good loser. The trick is to apparently not anyone know what you’re actually thinking…
The twice-shortlisted Tóibín (shockingly, Brooklyn was not shortlisted in 2009) has not won the Booker, and wryly regards himself as an old hand at “losing” it. On the night of the prizegiving dinner at the Guildhall, he told the audience that the shortlisted novelists each have a camera trained on them, ready to record the delight of the winner.
“And as soon as the winner is announced and it isn’t you,” he observed, “the cameraman just walks away, and you are left there at the table trying to look composed, and you want to die.”
The remark was delivered with practised timing and self-deprecation, and the audience laughed a trifle uneasily, but it carried a great burden of regret. Indeed, Tóibín remarked, until The Sea and then Anne Enright’s The Gathering (2007) won the prize, he could at least comfort himself with the observation that the judging panels were prejudiced against Irish writers.
“Now,” he sighed, “it seems that it is just me.”
I’ve lost three times, in much smaller horse races, and all three times I was just surprised and pleased to be there in good company. I suppose I’d have been more sour if I’d ever lost to anyone who sucked. But, hey! It’s a long race! I have plenty of time to lose to you, ___________!