Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017 Man Booker Prize shortlist / The best and worst lines

2017 Man Booker Prize shortlist: the best and worst lines

Ahead of the final verdict, we bring you the dazzling highs (and cringe-making lows) of this year's candidates.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

In the stairwell he turned to her and said, ‘Listen, would you like to have a coffee,’ and after a brief pause added, to make it seem less forward, given her conservative attire, ‘in the cafeteria?’
Location, location, location, the estate agents say. Geography is destiny, respond the historians.

Autumn by Ali Smith

If he was very old, the neighbour, he didn’t look anything like the people who were meant to be it on TV, who always seemed as if they were trapped inside a rubber mask, not just a face-sized mask, but one that went the length of the body from head to foot, and if you could tear it off or split it open it was like you’d find an untouched unchanged young person inside, who’d simply step cleanly out of the old fake skin, like the skin after you take out the inner banana
The word gymkhana, Daniel said, is a wonderful word, a word grown from several languages.
Words don’t get grown, Elisabeth said.
They do, Daniel said.
Words aren’t plants, Elisabeth said.
Words are themselves organisms, Daniel said. Oregano-isms, Elisabeth said.
Herbal and verbal, Daniel said.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders  

And then, of an evening, to have him shoot me that certain look (I knew it well) that meant “Brace yourself, madam, I will soon be upon you, all hips and tongue, little mustache having seemingly reproduced itself so as to be able to cover every entry point, so to speak, and afterward I will be upon you again, fishing for a compliment” was more than I could bear.
Then the children came.
Blood-stained porcelain bowl wobbles face down on woodfloor; orange peel not at all stirred by disbelieving last breath there among that fine summer dust-layer, fatal knife set down in passing-panic on familiar wobbly bannister, later dropped (thrown) by Mother (dear Mother) (heartsick) into the slow-flowing, chocolate-brown Potomac.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley

Cream, fluffy half-slippers covered her little feet.
The dawn erupted from a bud of mauve half-light and bloomed bloody as I woke. My lips stretched to a wide yawn as I sucked into my warming lungs the cool breeze that threaded a path through the open window.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund 

It was a dog that found the stash of pictures in Mr. Grierson's California apartment, actually... It was an English bulldog named Nestlé Crunch who, in less than twenty minutes, found a kilo of cocaine in the college kid's sock drawer and a shoebox of dirty pictures beneath the bathroom sink... In the end, Nestlé Crunch of Fertile Hollow was promoted to sergeant and given a gold shield, a week's vacation, and a police hat full of Milk-Bones.
My heart felt like a black train chugging uphill through my body.

4321 by Paul Auster

(Of Horn & Hardart automat, “the most splendid eating spot in all of New York”): Not that the bland, inexpensive food there could be categorized as splendid, the bowls of Yankee bean soup, the salisbury steaks with mashed potatoes doused in gravy, the thick slabs of blueberry pie, no, it was the place itself that lured them in, the amusement park atmosphere of that vast emporium of chrome and glass, the novelty of eating automated food, twentieth-century American efficiency in its craziest, most delightful incarnation, wholesome, hygienic cuisine for the hungry masses, and how enjoyable it was to go to the cashier and load up with a pile of nickels and then walk around looking at the dozens of offerings in their glassed-in receptacles, windows barricading tiny rooms of food, each one an individual portion made especially for you, and once you had chosen your ham-and-cheese sandwich or slice of pound cake, you would insert the appropriate number of nickels into the slot and the window would open, and just like that the sandwich was yours, a solid, dependable, freshly made sandwich, but before you left to start searching for a table there was the further enjoyment of seeing how quickly the empty receptacle filled up with another sandwich, a sandwich identical to the one you had just bought yourself, for there were people back there, men and women in white uniforms who took care of the nickels and replenished the empty containers with more food, what a job that must have been, Ferguson thought, and then the quest for an unoccupied table, carrying your meal or snack around and among the motley crowd of New Yorkers eating and drinking their automated food and beverages, many of them old men who sat there for hours every day consuming cup after cup of slowly drunk coffee, the old men from the vanished left still arguing after forty years about where the revolution had gone wrong, the stillborn revolution that had once seemed imminent and now was no more than a memory of what had never been.
It was clear that the central actor in this drama was his groin. Or, to hark back to the terminology of the ancient Hebrews, his loins. That is to say, his privates, which in the medical literature were commonly referred to as genitalia.

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