At least two of the nominees on the Booker Prize longlist were not even reviewed let alone widely available when the roster was announced. Now Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty are getting pre-publication press attention. John Updike offers some mixed praise for the former in the New Yorker, chiding Rushdie for “verbal hyperactivity” while commending him for “[t]he novel’s concluding pages [that] conjure up the sensations of the hunter and the hunted wonderfully well, with, uncharacteristically, understatement, the mark of authority. The climactic ending, in one more cinematic allusion, suggests the most terrifying scene in �The Silence of the Lambs.�’ And there’s an extract from Smith’s novel in The Daily Telegraph. It’s fairly limp stuff–any passage that describes someone’s face as having a “sphinx-like expression” has not been through the hands of an editor who can recognize (or who has the clout to purge) clich�s.If the publishing industry in Ireland or Britain seems to make little financial sense, the situation in France looks like a form a commercial suicide. The annual tradition of “la rentr�e litt�raire” will this year involve the publication in the single month of September of 663 novels, of which about a third will be foreign ones, according to Le Monde.Most candidates for the canon will get crushed in the stampede–but one author has already become very rich, or should I say even richer, before his book has even hit the shelves. Michel Houellebecq received what is for France the startling advance of almost �1.5 million for his latest book, “The Possibility of an Island.” Houellebecq, or rather his publishers, have pissed off much of the French literary establishment by (aside from making a lot of money) permitting only a select group of pro-Houellebecq critics to receive the book in advance of the official release date.* Among those obviously belonging to the chosen few, a critic from Der Spiegel (In English, link via Arts & Letters Daily) is among the first to tell us what this highly anticipated/hyped work is about. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the favourable treatment accorded the journalist, his verdict on this tale of cloning, neo-humans, and hollow sex is positive (I think):”His critics — usually little more than jealous, hate-filled pursuers — succumb to a fatal misunderstanding: Just because Houellebecq describes, with provocative flatness, a flat, self-destructive world, the result itself isn’t flat and hollow. His subject is the modern trash that pervades all elements of life in a pleasure-seeking society, but that doesn’t make the novel itself trash.”*He is likely to have further irked the great and the good by failing yesterday to turn up for a French television programme devoted to him. (See here).