Tonight I met up with them again, but this time we went to Las Iguanas, a delicious Latin American place by Waterloo Station. The restaurant's lights were dimmed at 5pm, I'm not sure why, but the awesome music in the background had me doing some in-seat dancing with deep shoulder action. It was the worst solo samba/ramba/zumba routine you've ever seen but I was having a good time. Sadly the happy hour included every cocktail except the one that I wanted, so I settled for a huge glass of merlot instead. The first quarter-glass was pretty average, but it improved exponentially as I sipped. I couldn't decide what I wanted to eat- the whole menu looked pretty good, and very cheap, so I settled on a steak burrito. This was pretty unimaginative of me, I'll admit, but I was not disappointed. I wasn't too hungry when I ordered it but by the time the burrito arrived, I happily stuffed it in - and the side salad too. Perhaps it was garnish. Whatever it was, it was delicious.
After dinner, we shuffled across the footpath and into London's Southbank Centre, to listen to readings by the six finalists in the Man Booker Prize 2010. J and her friends met in a writing class about two years ago, so they are all rather literary sorts. I like to read and write and whatnot too, but I had not done any background research into tonight. I had heard of The Man Booker Prize (or The Prize Formally Known As The Booker Prize), but I hadn't read any of the finalist books, nor did I know who might be reading tonight.
From a longlist, the six finalists were selected and the final winner will be announced on Tuesday. It was weird listening to each finalist answer one question from the Emcee about his or her inspiration etc, and then stand up to read a self-selected passage from their work. Why did they choose the particular passage that they did? How could judges shortlist six works that seemed so very different - surely judging the Man Booker Prize is like comparing apples and oranges....well, that's how it seemed to me.
I didn't think that any of the authors were particularly brilliant, which sounds obnoxious I know, because i'm not exactly a Pulitzer-winner, but I just mean that none of the finalists made me feel like running for the nearest bookstore. I have to say that I was very pleased to see Peter Carey up on stage, not only because he is a fellow Aussie (whose past 20 years in the US I cannot hold against him), but also because I loved "Oscar and Lucinda". I will probably buy his nominated book, but I have a small bookcase of novels to get through first.
The tickets for tonight's event was 15GBP and so I was a bit let-down that the organisers didn't factor in audience Q&A, as they apparently did last year. I think that probably would have been better value for money, but only if done properly. To be honest, I normally hate the audience Q&A part of events, as most people do. I mean, they're always the same. You always get some moron that dominates the question time, asking some bone-headed question that makes everyone roll their eyes. Or else you get that frustrated postgrad weirdo who demonstrates that they've read everything the panelists have ever written, and then uses the opportunity to grandstand about their own unrealised thoughts, dreams and feelings and then forgets what their bone-headed question even was, until everyone in the audience, and everyone up on stage, either lapses into unconsciousness or contemplates mob justice. The lady in front of me had read all six finalists and she didn't look like a frustrated postgrad weirdo, but I still wouldn't have given her a microphone. Just in case.
As a compromise, I suggested (to J) that perhaps the organisers could have opened an online forum asking people what questions they might like the panel to address. Then the organisers could have selected 20 or so questions and posed them to finalists at random. See? Brilliant. I should totally be on the Organising Committee for this thing next year.
So after the book readings, the authors were in the main ballroom downstairs selling copies of their books and signing them. J told that once the winner is announced, you can usually buy the finalist books at half-price online - so I think I'll just wait for that and re-assess later.