Not long now until the winner of the Man Booker Prize is announced. Kia ora Eleanor Catton and best of luck. From me and all of us at Christchurch City Libraries – librarians and library users alike. I wonder what the Man Booker equivalent of Break a leg is – Bust that Man Booker?
The Man Booker Prize will be announced at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday 15 October 2013 – 7 to 11pm (BST). So we will be at our desks or having breakfast here in NZ – the event starts at Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 7am.
NZ Listener will be there:
We’ll be tweeting live from the 2013 Man Booker Prize ceremony in London. Coverage starts around 7am this Wednesday, NZ time.
The winner of the Man Booker Prize is going to be announced today (update: The sense of an ending by Julian Barnes is the winner). Usually I try to read one of the books so that I sound vaguely knowledgable and literary, but this year I have only just graduated to reading books again after a diet of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, so I just couldn’t face dredging my way through some sort of elongated word fest that leaves me feeling depressed and rather sour.
However, this year the Man Booker’s judges chaired by Dame Stella Rimington, thriller writer and former head of MI5 declared that “We want people to buy these books and read them, not buy them and admire them.” This is almost tantamount to treason in the Man Booker realm, and things began to get rather nasty when one reviewer declared, “Dame Stella? We’d have been better off with Dame Edna.” (Read more in the Guardian)
We need to spare a thought for the judges though who had read all 100 plus books in the long list and then read the short list three times. I think the Man Booker could be introduced as an endurance sport!
All this talk of ‘readability’ bodes well for the likes of me, what have you enjoyed from the list, which ones have ‘readability’ and which ones, just as interestingly, have left you cold?
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson has just been announced the winner. Hooray! I even did a wee cheer to see a victory for comedy over tragedy (but also because I picked it in a competition as the winner, he he).
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!
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.
Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall has taken out the big one!
Her book revolves around Thomas Cromwell ‘the blacksmith boy who became Henry VIII’s right-hand man':
Wolf Hall stands on its own, as a complete story – it is the end of one vital chapter in Thomas Cromwell’s life, and perhaps when we meet him again he will be slightly different. Five years are before him, his rise and rise – the destruction of Anne Boleyn, the battle for the soul of Henry’s daughter Mary, a revolt which is almost a civil war, the shaking and remaking of England…
I love her quote on the enduring fascination of the Tudors: ‘Almost all the stories you might want to tell are lurking behind the arras’.
So congratulations to Hilary, and if you’ve read Wolf Hall do chime in and tell us what you thought. I’m still patiently waiting to get my hands on a copy …
As yet I haven’t read ANY of these, but am intrigued especially by How to paint a dead man by Sarah Hall. I interviewed her at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in 2008 and she talked about the percolating process of this novel:
… very loosely based around the life of Giorgio Morandi, Italian still life artist, “a very weird character who painted the same series of objects over and over again his whole life. A recluse, very well respected in the field of art but lot of rumours flew around about him and also speculation about the work. He painted bottles over and over again on the table and he never answered anyone’s artistic theories about them. There is a character loosely based on him and four narratives. Art/Death/Existential matters. It’s going to be a hard sell!”
Others on my to-read list are The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt (blogged about Sue earlier this month) and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It’s set in one of the most interesting times in English history – the reign of Henry VIII – and told largely through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell.
Another novel with a historical bent that I want to read is The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds. The description read to me like a Peter Ackroyd-esque blend of historical figures and intense lyricism – a good thing:
After years struggling with alcohol, critical neglect and depression, great nature poet John Clare finds himself in High Beach Private Asylum. At the same time another poet, the young Alfred Tennyson, moves nearby and becomes entangled in the life and catastrophic schemes of the asylum’s owner, the peculiar, charismatic Dr Matthew Allen. This intensely lyrical novel describes his vertiginous fall, through hallucinatory episodes of insanity and dissolving identity, towards his final madness. Historically accurate, but brilliantly imagined, the closed world of High Beach and its various inmates – the doctor, his lonely daughter in love with Tennyson, the brutish staff and John Clare himself – are brought vividly to life. Rapturous yet precise, exquisitely written, rich in character and detail, this is a remarkable and deeply affecting book: a visionary novel which contains a world.
If book sales were anything to go by then Linda Grant’s The Clothes on their backs would have been a sure winner with 3,074 copies sold in English bookshops compared to White Tigers that sold 2,588 copies, and Ladbrooks had Sebastian Barrys’ The Secret scripture as a 2/1 winner. Interestingly word on the ground was that the reason that Linda Grant’s book sold so well because it was considerably thinner than some of the heftier tomes that were nominated this year!
However White Tiger won in the end with the Judges saying that it “shocked and entertained” in equal measure. Perhaps Tewp should be on the judging panel next year, he obviously has a good take on what makes a great read!