As we hope you know by now, each quarter five nominators will select a book for us to consider - from that pool of five, a selection is made. But what do the rest of us get to do while that is happening? This post is the first in what we hope will be a recurring (albeit occasional) series by those of us not selected as nominators in a given quarter, wherein we can share with you the title we'd have chosen if only we'd have been nominators.
I'd have said "lucky enough to be nominators" but even in preparing this, I was struck by the difficulty that our inaugural five must have felt narrowing down their choice. For each title that pops to mind, the interior editor shouts, "No, wait! Don't forget this one! And you sure seemed to love that one." And on and on.
(Interestingly, I can share that during the nominating process two types of nominators emerged - those who knew almost immediately the book they wanted in, as though they'd been saving it for a special occasion; and those who read and read and read right up until the last possible moment before choosing, wanting as wide a field as possible. I like to think I'd be one of the latter, but I suspect I'd be one of the former.)
Which brings me back to the question - what book would I have thrown into the ring, had I had the chance? Well, regular readers of TEV surely know I would have been tempted to choose John Banville's forthcoming novel The Sea - but it wouldn't have made our timetable rules (choices have to be available no later than one month after announcement); and if I'd have read a bit faster, there's an excellent chance I'd have chosen John Berger's new book Here is Where We Meet, which I am finding just breathtaking. But just to show that I'm not partial to authors whose initials are JB, the book that I would, in fact, have nominated is Mitch Cullin's A Slight Trick of the Mind.
I've written about this moving tale of Sherlock Holmes as an old man previously, and I was struck by Cullin's ability to take a character who - for all his beloved familiarity - was never rendered as much more than a rational machine, and turn him into someone recognizably human. I was moved by Holmes' plight, as he grapples with old age and approaching oblivion but, perhaps even more disturbingly, as he grapples with the the emotional residue that his sequestered life of the mind has wrought.
It's a well-crafted, thoughtful book, elegiac without being maudlin, colored by loss but ultimately hopeful. And although the Sherlock Holmes angle might help it get notice at the outset, there's not much of a whodunnit in store, and so it's questionable to what extent the Holmesians will embrace it. But it deserves a wider audience than that - any serious reader interested in watching a literary legend come fully to life should check out A Slight Trick of the Mind.