The West is broke, the Middle East is in flames, the world is going to hell on a hire bike, but let's get to what really matters -- the Booker Prize, the winner of which was announced tonight (British time), at the usual glittering ceremony, which will become, in memory, for five out of the six finalists, the most bittersweet night of their life since adolescence. Everything about the Booker is bizarre, from its name -- which fuses current sponsor the Man Group, with half of the original sponsor, Booker-McConnell* -- to the ever-changing judges, to the degree of anguished debate it draws about the state of the culture, like some sort of magic, farmer-devised, cowsh-t magnet.

This year is no exception, with the judges being roundly condemned for dumbing down the prize to an unprecedented degree, four very conventional lit fic novels, one mildly postmodern exercise (The Sisters Brothers), and only one more challenging and demanding exercise, three times Booker bridesmaid Julian Barnes's The Sense of An Ending**. The attacks have been unprecedented in their bitterness, with the hilariously named commentator John Self noting that even the contributors to the prize's forum, who usually plump for more "readable" titles, have been dismayed by the middlingness of this year's list.