A New KfC contest: Pick the 2010 IMPAC winner

A lot of blogs have contests, but I would like to think that we do our best here to make it interesting for everyone to enter, while at the same time requiring them to jump over a small stile. KfC has not had a contest for a while but we do have a tradition of challenging our entrants. And, of course, demanding a skill component. And then introducing something totally unskilled as a tie-breaker.

So…KfC ran a contest last year on the 2009 IMPAC awards. In many ways, while the IMPAC is not the most important of the Prize contests, it is the most interesting — nominations are made by libraries around the world (which produces a very long (156 books) longlist — see here — which I would like to think has some reader impact) and then winnowed down to a shortlist of eight. Most important, the conditions are English language novels published two years ago and translations into English from the last five years. That means that the IMPAC in some ways is a “look back” at prize competitions from two years ago; but then they add their own twist. And throw in a few translated novels just to make it interesting. And then the jury often chooses the most outrageous result (yes, I admit now that I abandoned last year’s winner, Man Gone Down, 270 pages into the book). By way of spiking interest, the Booker-winning The White Tiger was elgible this year and did not make the short list; neither did The Secret Scipture. These library readers are a very, very picky bunch. More power to them, I say.

The first prize in the KfC contest will be $100 in credit at the international online bookseller who will accept my credit card and ship to your address (alas, the last time I checked the Book Depository does not offer this service yet). Second prize will be $50 worth of book credits. In both cases, for those who are interested in Canadian books, I will be quite willing to increase the prize by 50 per cent if we can negotiate a list of books to be shipped from Canada. The IMPAC winner will be announced on June 17 so that makes the entry deadline for this contest midnight, June 16 GMT — to encourage early entries, there will be a 25 per cent prize bonus to any winning entry that is submitted prior to June 1 .

Do submit an entry quickly so we can at least get some comment talk going. You are allowed to change your choice any time before the deadline.

And of course with only eight books on the list, there must be a tie-breaker. If two entries pick the winner, we will split the prize. If there are more than two, in the interests of encouraging my Antipodean and North American visitors, this year’s tie-breaker will be: Whoever lives farthest away from the most frequent abode of the winning author (KfC will be the judge of that). I certainly hope that doesn’t discourage UK and Ireland entries but it does add a totally arbitrary element to the contest. If only one person picks the winner, the second prize will go to the entry that amuses KfC the most.

(NOTE: If you are reluctant about entering this contest, let me tell you the story of last year’s. After receiving many entries, I had none from John Self at The Asylum and shamed him into submitting an entry. He noticed that Man Gone Down had no supporters, named it and, of course, it won. We had a great time putting together a selection of books for his newborn son, Finn. I fully expect Finn to make his own entry this year. So don’t think you need to be an expert reader to enter — the IMPAC jury has a history of off the wall decisions when it comes to the short list).

So here is this year’s shortlist. I have only read two, and that was before I started this blog — I’ve included links to reviews that I think are very good of both. I promise to do my best to get to the other six, all of which have been ordered (I’ll put up a link to other reviews if I don’t do one myself).

The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker (translated from the Dutch). Reviewed by Trevor here but I do intend to get to it myself.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery.

In Zodiac Light, by Robert Edric

Settlement, by Christopher Hein, translated from German

The Believers, by Zoe Heller

Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill. Reviewed at the Mookse and the Gripes here.

God’s Own Country, by Ross Raisin (published as Out Backward in North America, where we have our own versions of God’s own country).

Home, by Marilynne Robinson. I’ve read it, didn’t like it, but here’s a link to dovegreyreader who loved the book.

And if you are a blogger who has reviewed any of the shortlist, or a reader who has read a review of any that you thought was helpful, please do not hesitate to supply a link. The IMPAC is a global, friendly contest and KfC’s offshoot is meant to reflect that.

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63 Responses to “A New KfC contest: Pick the 2010 IMPAC winner”

  1. kimbofo Says:

    Ahhh, what a great competition, Kevin. But dare I throw my hat into the ring first? I’ve read Netherland and have both Elegance and Home in the TBR. But I’m going to go for In Zodiac Light, by Robert Edric, on no other basis than the story is set in an asylum and the whole IMPAC things a bit crazy, isn’t it? ;-)

  2. Isabella Says:

    I haven’t read any of them, but put me down for Settlement, on the basis of having once read something by Hein and I liked it enough to keep it (and not give it away in the regular book purgings). Plus it’s about vengeance, and that almost always makes for a good story. I think I want to read this one even more than the Hedgehog book now.

  3. Kerry Says:

    The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker. Because it has cows on the cover and I grew up on a farm with cows in a community of Dutch immigrants (and descendants of Dutch immigrants).

    Also, The Mookse and The Gripes has levered it onto my TBR with his excellent review.

    Kevin, thanks for doing this and making it interesting!

  4. Frances Says:

    Having not a clue, I will go with The Believers by Zoe Heller. Just because I loved it.

  5. anokatony Says:

    I’m going to go reverse-reverse intuitive and go with what I see as the favorite, ‘Home’ by Marilynne Robinson. Most of the people who will be entering are sophisticated enough to select another book, so maybe they won’t pick the favorite.

  6. lizzysiddal Says:

    I’m sorry but how on earth do I choose between the novel I thought perfect in every way, Home , the book I have in the TBR, The Twin, and the one that is winging its way to me, The Settlement?

    I’ll have to read the other two to decide. Fortunately there is time before I make up my mind. Very generous competition, Kevin.

  7. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Thank you all for entering into the spirit of the contest and, of course, you have two months to change your entry. I do love the idea of cows on the cover (but then we have to consider the great cover of In Zodiac Light, don’t we?).

    We will have some fun with this one in the next few months, I promise. Thanks for starting it off.

  8. Tom Cunliffe Says:

    I’m not at all keen on Home, or the Hedgehog book. With Marylynne Robinson, I just find her too parochial and small-minded – her sympathy is a little too much with her dull religious characters in my view. Lizzy obviously knows what she’s talking about so maybe its just me!

    Settlement looks really good but I’ve not read it. Alas, I’ve not read any of the others.

    Thanks for the tip about a gravatar – I hope its working now

  9. KevinfromCanada Says:

    TomC: Now that is just about the greatest gravatar on the blogging world! Your entry will be awaited with great anticipation.

  10. Wilson Knut Says:

    Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

  11. Isabel Says:

    I select Hedgehog. It was nominated for the book club which I am am founder and member.

    The member who nominated it is discerning reader, so I trust his tastes.

    I will be reading it in the next two weeks.

  12. John Self Says:

    I don’t intend to make an entry – yet… – but I will observe that when I first saw the list, I thought it rather pedestrian. On further reflection it’s not really so bad, but I think my response came from the fact that, as is so often the case with the IMPAC and its odd time frames, several of the books have already been ‘around the block’ several times in the UK and US, particularly Netherland, Hedgehog, Home and the Ross Raisin. Also, Robert Edric is one of those writers against whom I have an entirely unfounded prejudice, probably to do with his productivity – he seems to turn out a book every 18 months – and because I believe (again without evidence) that his books are generally concerned with men’s men and their relationship to the landscape yadda yadda yadda (for the same reason I have a prejudice against Tim Winton). Am I even close, I wonder?

    The book which interests me most is Settlement, and I’m pleased that Isabella can recommend Hein from previous experience. I did read the first 50 pages or so of The Twin, and really liked some of it, but in the end I gave up for reasons which now elude me.

  13. Carole Says:

    Hi John

    I’m going to go with Ross Raisin ‘God’s Own Country’. I have only read the Heller which I don’t think will win (Eileen Battersby in The Irish Times clearly hated it!) so am taking a bit of a punt on an outsider.

  14. Mr. Benchly Says:

    I will select Settlement by Christopher Hein for the very obvious reason that the cover image chosen has a 34% off sticker on it, which made me feel sorry for it. It looks like it could use a pick me up like an IMPAC award.

  15. KevinfromCanada Says:

    John: I’ve always had the same impression of the IMPAC but changed my mind in the last couple of years. While it is true that a number of the books have had a lot of exposure, it does seem to be the only contest that brings togethers works from all over — and I don’t mind at all the prospect of re-thinking my opinion on some of those books. That said, it must also be considered that the final choice often seems to reflect “most overlooked book” rather than “best book”, but that is part of what makes it fun. Robert Edric is a new name to me so I come without any prejudice.

    And it is great to see that the entries are already all over the map. We already have at least one vote for every book on the shortlist.

    Mr. Benchly: Actually almost all of the eight have 34 per cent off stickers at the ChaptersIndigo site that is my first stop. The Hein was the only one where I couldn’t find a “clean” version of the cover. Which in no way is a critical comment on the rationale you have used to make your choice. :-)

  16. Holland Berrett Says:

    Hi Kevin, since my son Holland cannot type yet, he asked me to make his entry for him.

    He chooses Netherland as his sentimental pick. His name is not derived from this book’s title, but there are other connections: I was reading Netherland the day he was born and finished it while he we were still in the hospital. Also, the first published author Holland met was Joseph O’Neill, who signed our copy of Netherland to both of us.

  17. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Holland: Thank you for your entry and the careful explanation of your reasoning — which makes much sense. As you are aware, this contest already has a history of rewarding young readers. Good luck.

  18. gaskella Says:

    I will plump for Robert Edric. I haven’t read it, but I’ve really enjoyed several others of his (Gathering the water in particular). I really liked Hedgehog too though, but shall stick with Edric.

  19. winstonsdad Says:

    i ll go with settlemnet ,i didn’t like netherland read a lot bad reviews of hedgehog and the twin looks good

  20. Rick P Says:

    Despite nominating very successful, books, the IMPAC usually seems to go to something more obscure. So Hedgehog, Netherland and Home would seem not to be typical IMPAC fare.

    Settlement or The Twin seem to be IMPAC type books so I will go with Settlement.

  21. Rocky Says:

    Can I say as perhaps the only literary feline qualified to enter this bun fight, that any book about an animal as ghastly as a hedgehog (have you eaten one lately…I thought not, the prickles get right under your plate) is going to be pants and there is no question in my mind that the prize can only go to Zoe Heller for The Believers, a book in which no cats died or suffered in the writing of to my uncertain knowledge.

    • Trevor Says:

      Rocky, I thought you might be interested in reading J.F. Powers’s short story “Death of a Favorite.” There you’ll find a cat almost as articulate and literate as yourself. Though a cat dies, a cat is also ressurrected.

  22. Rocky Says:

    PS http://dovegreyreader.typepad.com/dovegreyreader_scribbles/2008/11/the-believers-by-zoe-heller.html

  23. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Rocky: I am halfway through Hedgehog and must admit that your metaphor is appropriate. Thank you very much for entering the contest and including a link to the review that your feed dispenser posted.

  24. Kinna Says:

    Great contest. For now, I pick Settlement

  25. Sandra Says:

    I don’t feel right making a choice without having read them all but there probably isn’t enough time for that and I see others taking a stab at it. So, I enjoyed Hedgehog and Netherland but did not think them to be outstanding. I loved Home and tentatively give it my vote. I am trying to get copies of the others and may change my choice after reading some of them. A very generous competition by the way, I’m glad I found it.

  26. Shortlists for two prizes announced « Kinna Reads Says:

    [...] look at the longlist; it contains lots of interesting books.  BTW, Keven from Canada is running a Pick the 2010 IMPAC winner [...]

  27. Sylwia Says:

    I say Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill. I haven’t read it, it’s just a wild guess. I have read Home by Marilynne Robinson and I really, really liked it, I wrote about it here: http://ajaczytam.blox.pl/2010/02/Marilynne-Robinson-Home.html (it’s in Polish)

  28. Ceri Kay Says:

    I was going to pick God’s Own Country by Ross Raisin, I keep reading great things about this book and really want to read it but the cover of The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker is so blue, and the sky outside is totally grey, so I will go for this.

  29. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Sylwia: A special thanks for that link — this is the first Polish review that KfC has linked to.
    Ceri Kay: The Twin just arrived and I hope to get to it this week.

  30. Rick P Says:

    I just can’t bring myself to read Home because of my Gilead experience. I know a lot of people loved Gilead but I found it a real chore and didn’t enjoy it at all.

    I thought Netherland was decent but definitely didn’t like it as much as many people did.

  31. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Rick: I read Home and can’t bring myself to read Gilead — like you, I found it a chore. Netherland was better for me the second time through but still not great.

  32. Max Cairnduff Says:

    Kevin, just out of curiosity, could you tell me which you disliked more? Home or the rather dismal sounding Hedgehog book?

    Utterly disinterested query I assure you, it’ll in no way influence my voting…

  33. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Ha. I think Hedgehog came closer to succeeding than Home did, since I found much of it to be quite interesting. Then again, I should qualify that opinion by admitting that I have a strong aversion to books that are centred on religion. Home is probably better written, but for me was a lesser book.

  34. Max Cairnduff Says:

    Interesting. Anyway, I’ve been reflecting and I’m voting for Home. I’ve not read it, but I have studied the flights of birds across the sky (among sundry other portents) and currently I believe the Gods are telling us that it has the strongest chance. If my readings of the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology have taught me anything, it’s that one should pay heed to portents.

  35. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Max: That’s as good a rationale as any for trying to predict what a prize jury will decide. Of course, you have almost two months to experience other portents which would cause you to change your selection.

  36. kiss a cloud Says:

    I have only read The Elegance of the Hedgehog and was surprised to see it listed for the IMPAC, didn’t seem likely. Haven’t read Home, but based on Gilead, I’d say not either. My vote goes to IN ZODIAC LIGHT because it feels like the most IMPAC-worthy, based solely on premise (and Amazon reviews!).

  37. Cherine Hlady Says:

    Haven’t read any of them, but I’m picking Mr. Raisin to win on the basis that I find his surname delightful.

  38. Mary Gilbert Says:

    If I’m not too late Kevin I’d like to vote for Robert Edric. I’m not sure that he’ll win because his books are so relentlessly gloomy but on form he’s a really fantastic writer ( and still relatively unknown I think). His best novel is Peacetime which is set in a bleak part of Norfolk just after the 2nd WW. He more recently decided to pursue a lighter touch with some detective novels set in Hull ( the second one of a trilogy can only, unfortunately , be described as turgid – I nearly gave up). He’s particularly good on lanscape and atmosphere. If you like novels about the frozen wastes – and I do especially if I’m sunk in an armchair in front of the fire – his novel about Franklin’s expedition The Broken Lands is absolutely excellent. ( trivia note – someone told me that his name is a nom de plume – his real name is somewhat more plebian)

  39. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Mary: Definitely not to late — in fact you have until June 16 to change your entry if you want. This will be my first Edric, so thanks for the quick summary.

  40. Sheila O'Brien Says:

    Im not sure Im qualified to enter (being MrsKFC and all) but I’d like to pick The Elegance of the Hedgehog, in support of Rocky, and because hedgehogs are such a sweet British thing. We don’t have them over here in the erstwhile colonies. If someone writes a novel about Spotted Dick, I will choose that on another occasion for the same reason ( sweet British thing, not Rocky)

  41. Tracey Says:

    Hi, Great competition, I will plump for In Zodiac Light for no other reason than I like the cover.

  42. lizzysiddal Says:

    I doubt I’ll read any more before the announcement. So I’ve now to decide between the perfect “Home” and the very accomplished “Settlement”. (Glad to see you enjoyed the latter also.) Tough choice but I do admire excellent allegory and I’d love to see a German novel take the prize – although is that likely in the year Herta Mueller took the Nobel.

    Heck, I really don’t know. Let me toss a coin. Heads for Home, Tails for Settlement … and tails it is. I’m now in the Settlement camp.

  43. Colette Jones Says:

    I think I’ll go with Home. You know I loved that one, Kevin. I disagree with Tom (an April post above) who said that Robinson’s sympathies lie with the religious characters. I think she very much wants “them” to see where they are wrong. Jack was the sympathetic character in Gilead and again in Home, along with his sister, whose name I have forgotten! It took too long for Robinson to bring Jack out in Gilead – that would now be my criticism of that book. At the time I read it, it was because I thought it was pretty boring.

  44. KevinfromCanada Says:

    I know I am being dreadfully political in saying this, but I bet the IMPAC jury won’t choose the same book as the “other” Irish prize, the Orange, which Home won last year. Of course, I have been wrong before, although I forget when the last occasion was.

  45. leyla Says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I’m hoping Zoe Heller’s The Believers wins the prize. My review of it is here:
    http://www.bookgrouponline.com/forum/showthread.html?t=5212&highlight=believers+heller

  46. leyla Says:

    PS I can’t face Home because I found Gilead turgid, and I won’t be trying the Edric because I read his Booker listed Gathering the Water in 2006 and found it dull.
    I hope Heller wins because The Believers was ignored by the Booker judges.
    PS I seem to recall telling John Self years ago that I’d eat an item of clothing if he started and didn’t like a Zoe Heller novel. Sadly, he did (start) and didn’t (like). Maybe someone will make me a marzipan and sponge item similar to the one made for Matthew Parris to partake of humble pie on The Daily Politics.

  47. KevinfromCanada Says:

    Leyla: Excellent reasoning for the entry. Good luck. I’d love a marzipan and sponge. Alas, Margaret Atwood (my pet hate) is more in to nettles and vinegar.

  48. Crake Says:

    Great contest, Kevin!

    I’m ashamed I haven’t read any of the books on the shortlist so I’m going to go out on a limb here and choose … The Twin.

  49. KevinfromCanada Says:

    A very worthwhile shot in the dark, Crake. Best of luck.

  50. Shawna Says:

    I know I missed the early bird entry for this contest but I would like to toss my proverbial hat in the ring (to mix metaphors). So I’m going to choose… God’s Own Country.

  51. alison Says:

    I haven’t read enough of the list to know, so I am going with a hunch and a book I haven’t yet read. I’m voting for Ross raisin

  52. BOOKWOMANMF Says:

    Blindfold in place, eyes closed and here I go with the tail — Zoe Heller’s excellent novel The Believers –

  53. Liz Says:

    I’ve read Home, Netherland, and The Believers…hmmm…my vote goes to…drum roll…Netherland.

  54. Mirta Says:

    Kevin, based on your review, my choice is Settlement.

  55. Brookner Says:

    Just in time, I guess. All the shortlisted books sound interesting. My pick is the novel by Ross Raisin.

  56. KevinfromCanada Says:

    In time, Brookner, and thanks for the entry. I’ll post the results as soon as possible when the winner is announced.

  57. AK Says:

    my choice is God’s Own Country by Ross Raisin

    btw I just discovered this fab blog of yours via kimbofo’s ‘Reading Matters’…looking forward to exploring both your sites in more detail

    Regards from Toronto

  58. kimbofo Says:

    The winner has been announced, Kevin. I believe it is The Twin by Gerbrand Barker!

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