Just before midnight the Man Booker Prize Longlist 2017 was announced.
Now, if you’re a big fan of literary fiction and find yourself reading barely anything else, chances are you won’t find what you’re looking for on this blog. My interests lie primarily with children’s books and crime fiction. However, I do enjoy the occasional fantasy or literary novel.
That is why I like following literary prizes such as The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize. Whatever your genre preferences may be, there’s no denying that the Man Booker comes closest to being the Oscars for books. I don’t expect to see a fantasy novel win, like Lord of the Rings did at The Academy Awards in 2004, but given that a crime novel was shortlisted last year, there’s hope that the Man Booker Prize is at least willing to look at other genres.
Most professional writers will agree that being a storyteller is the best job in the world. Even as a hobby it’s got so much going for it. Writing sparks your imagination, feeds your creative soul, keeps your brain active and maybe most importantly makes you happy. But I won’t lie: writing can be the cause of frustration as well. Some writers will dread the editing process, others would like to avoid plotting. I, for one, dislike first drafting. While I love opening a new document or notebook and starting a new story, it won’t take long for me to realise that the idea sounded so much better when it was just in my head. During my first drafts I’m constantly accompanied by my pet devil who loves to screech incessantly ‘it’s complete rubbish!’. Consequently, first drafts have become an afrodisiac for procrastination.
Over the years I’ve acquired a few tricks to silence the wee devil. I’m still trying to get him to move to Antarctica, but in the mean time I consider myself a lucky man when I manage to lock him up for a few hours.
In a few days it’s that joyous time of year again when I get presents to celebrate new wrinkles. Hurray!
Birthdays are also a great moment to look back at what has been and more importantly at what is to come, or what we hope is to come.
This year, the last one in my twenties – don’t cry, don’t cry – , I wanted to make myself a bucketlist. For those of you who don’t know what a bucketlist is; it’s basically a list with activities or goals you wish to do or achieve before you die.
With July well on its way, the time has come for many of us to pack their bags for a nice holiday break. Some might have left already, others are still vigorously planning their departure to get the most out of their trip.
For those of you who are in preparation mode or have no holiday planned, I’ll be doing a little blog series that I’ve baptised rather lamely “Travel From The Couch”. The aim is to provide some books, music and TV series/movies from your (desired) holiday destination, which will hopefully either make you familiar with the country you’re travelling to or be a sweet consolation when you haven’t got a vacation planned.
First stop on our virtual journey around the world …
June had barely started when the literary world lost an icon. Poet and novelist Helen Dunmore died of cancer at the age of 64. During her career she wrote 12 novels, including Orange Prize winner A Spell of Winter, and 10 poetry collections. Fellow writers Antony Beevor, Tracy Chevalier and Jonathan Coe among others paid tribute to Dunmore by praising her writing skills and her kind and generous personality.
Helen Dunmore had only recently revealed her poor diagnosis and had been realistic and acceptive about it.
“The ground beneath my feet has never been more uncertain, but what is sure is that the ambulance has already called and there is no vagueness about my mortality. I may be ill but I’m also warm and sheltered, surrounded by family and friends and with medical help a phone call away.
I think of a young man or woman in the Middle East who has lived less than a third of the years that I’ve enjoyed and is now alone in a cell, tortured, condemned to death, silenced and very likely denied even a funeral.”
June has also been quite the month for literary awards. After weeks of speculation and a strong shortlist to choose from the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was awarded to Naomi Alderman‘s fourth novel The Power. Many readers had predicted a victory for Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien or the much appreciated Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, but the judges favoured Alderman’s brilliantly imagined dystopia, her big ideas and her fantastic imagination.
It isn’t the first time that Naomi Alderman is awarded a prestigious prize. Her debut Disobedience won the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers.