Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Judging a Book by Page 112 - Savita Kalhan

There's a new book prize I read about recently: Le Prix de la Page 112. It was inspired by a line from a Woody Allen film, Hannah and Her Sisters: "Don't forget the poem on page 112. It reminded me of you!" The book referred to in the film was a collection of poems by E. E. Cummings. So the judges of the French prize, Le Prix de la Page 112 are asked only to read page 112.

The theory behind this prize is that page 112 represents the critical point in a book where the reader's attention could potentially lapse.
“Everyone neglects page 112,” the organisers of the prize write. “That’s why we chose it. Our logic is simple. If a remarkable page 112 is rare, then we are permitted to hope that the novel in which it appears might also be remarkable, from beginning to end.” If a novel has a beautiful 112, the jury will read the rest of the book.

The Long Weekend
Openings of books are agonised over, honed and polished by the writer, and then by editors, so that they are as perfect as can be. So the hook is usually perfectly formed and the reader ensnared ‑ at least for the first chapters. Most readers would read on a bit further, giving the book a chance, before putting it down if it no longer holds their attention, but if they have made it to page 112, then, it's thought, they are likely to continue.

So I've been looking at page 112 in various books, and I had to check out page 112 of The Long Weekend too of course. I'm happy with page 112, and it has one of my favourite lines on it.

City of Thieves
 David Benioff's, City of Thieves, was lying close at hand, so I read page 112 of that too, and based on page 112, I would definitely have wanted to read the book, which I have and thought was brilliant.

A Fine Balance

This is page 112 of A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, one of my all-time favourite books. I found myself continuing on to read the next page without thinking. So the sign of a very good page 112, I guess.

With the whole of the IT system in Barnet down and librarians unable to access the library catalogues, order or reserve books, looking at page 112 seems like an interesting activity to try out with my teen library group with the books on the shelves in the library. Rather than looking at the cover, reading the blurb and reading the opening pages, we'll be reading page 112 to see if this is a book that grabs us, and if page 112 is blank, then we'll just look at page 111 or page 113.

Julia Kerninon with her page 112
This year's winner of Le Prix de la Page 112 was announced on March 30th. Julia Kerninon won the prize for her novel, Le Dernier Amour d'Attila Kiss, but I'll have to wait for the translation to read page 112 for myself.

So what are your favourite page 112s?

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Sue Bursztynski said...

Sounds like a fun activity but don't forget, Page 112 might be different in different editions of the same book! :-)

David Thorpe said...

Only the French would come up with such a lovely, wacky idea.

Susan Price said...

Sue B's right! - And I thought it was page 69 that was the acid test?

Penny Dolan said...

Interesting if wacky idea - but maybe about the point where you open a book in a shop/library "somewhere around the middle" to decide if you really want to read it. Do tell us what your Reading Group makes of this, Savita!

Savita Kalhan said...

It is a lovely and wacky idea, but I'm not sure it would work here.
Sue and Susan, I think the prize was set up to highlight the 'soft underbelly' of a novel around the first third of the book - the part which is often neglected by editors, apparently. So it doesn't matter if page 112 is not the same in different editions. But, yes, it's only a bit of fun.

Savita Kalhan said...

Yes, I will, Penny. The reading group has very firm ideas on books, book covers, blurbs and openings. They really don't like misleading blurbs at all, or if the blurbs are written in a very different style to the book! So reading page 112s with them will be interesting.

Lari Don said...

What a lovely blog about a fabulous idea! I do something similar before buying a book - I never read the blurb (I don't write my own blurbs, so why would I judge another author or their story by the book's blurb?) but I read the first few paragraphs of the first page, and if that grabs me I flick to page 21 (my favourite number, 3 x 7, so satisfying...) and read a few paras of that too. I'm working on a similar principle to your Pg 112, which is that the first page is the shop window, but a page further into the book is the reality!

Katherine Roberts said...

My publisher Chicken House used to put a little egg on the back of their books with a page suggested for browsers, saying something like "Read it! Try page 96..." So if you find one of their books with "Try page 112..." then I guess you can't go wrong!

Savita Kalhan said...

Thanks, Lari. I usually read the opening and then flick to a random page somewhere in the middle! It'll be page 112 now.
Katherine, I've never noticed the egg, but I'll look out for it now.