..and there is, just occasionally, truth in platitudes:

“I am just really touched because I didn’t expect to win. I am so stunned and principally because I have read everything on the short list and I know its quality is incredible. Every writer has aspects of style I genuinely covet. They are extraordinary woman and extraordinary writers.”

I know, every writer says that, even when the other contenders for a prize are, say, My Life As A Septic Tank Technician or Threnody: A Tragedy Written Entirely in Sonnets. But this year, the shortlist for the Orange Prize was extraordinary: aside from Zadie Smith, the contenders were Hilary Mantel, Sarah Waters, Ali Smith, Nicole Kraus and Carrie Tiffany. The decision wasn’t unanimous, but On Beauty made it through anyway–and with a list like this, consensus was going to be hard to come by.