In A Strange Room

In my blog about two weeks ago: My Pub Quiz Fantasy  – The Man Booker Prize, I hoped that In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut would be this year’s Man Booker winner. Well, I’ve just finished reading it and I no longer care if it is the Booker winner or not. I just want other people to read it. I want to share it. It’s that good.

Three stories make up the book: The Follower, The Lover, and The Guardian. Galgut is the central character throughout. In each story he fails either to follow, to love or to guard. But put that way off to one side because he excels as The Storyteller in prose that is clean, compelling, almost hypnotic.

Arguments against this novel as a work of fiction seem spurious. All memory is fiction. Try comparing your memory of an event with someone else’s. Greg and I can barely agree as to the exact sequence of events on The Night Of  The Earthquake and that was only a month ago. I rest my case. Galgut gets round this by writing mainly in the third person “he” and then unexpectedly switching to the first person “I”. He explains this early on in the novel on page 5:

“He sits on the edge of a raised stone floor and stares out unseeingly into the hills around him and now he is thinking of things that happened in the past. Looking back at him through time, I remember him remembering, and I am more present in the scene than he was. But memory has its own distances, in part he is me entirely, in part he is a stranger I am watching.”

Needless to say book clubs  around the world can expect me to foist this latest Galgut on them. As a tribute to his writing I will finish off in Galgut style:

She knew she would put this latest book into her book club. She could see her lovely friends skirt it warily, see people pick it up and put it down. She could feel that they would rather have had another Jodi Picoult. But I don’t care, I want to share this with them. I want us to remember this book together.

Someone out there, read this book. Share your comments. I am lonely here in my one woman Damon Galgut Fanclub!

My Pub Quiz Fantasy – The Man Booker Prize

This will be one of the favourites

I am quite spectacularly useless at pub quizzes.  How can it be that I know nothing at all about Paris Hilton and her ilk, dangerously little about the All Blacks and am so abysmally bad at the recognition of pop stars. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been reduced to banging my glass of Pinot Gris onto the table and demanding: “When will they ask me something that I know?”  To which the Pub Quiz Wunderkind (PQW) from Customer Welcome countered – “What do you know, exactly?”

Well PQW, I know about The Man Booker Prize – the literary event that everybody loves to hate. Writing careers are made or broken on its back and it is about to wreak its annual havoc on the 9th October. I love the Booker prize for the massive interest in contemporary fiction that it inspires, so I took a vow to read every single Booker prizewinning novel from the beginning of time. Here’s what I have to look forward to this year:

You can’t look at this list of loveliness and not be moved to ask: Which book would you choose as the winner? And this being the Booker prize, the follow on question: Which book will actually win?

Fast forward to my fantasy. It’s Pub Quiz night and some poor suckers have been saddled with me as a team mate. A double point question comes up: “What was the third novel written by Booker Prize nominee Damon Galgut?”

This is my fantasy, so only I will know the answer. It is the unforgettable The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs. The crowd will go wild. The PQW will come over all respectful, I’ll be shouted another glass of plonk and my team will win.

Is this too much to ask?

What are your picks for this year’s Man Booker?