The Man Booker Prize 2014

“This is surely the most diverse longlist in Man Booker history,”

So said the chair of judges for last year’s prize. While he went on to discuss subject matter, you only need to look at the longlist itself to see that it was indeed a triumph of diversity. It featured thirteen authors from seven countries across five continents and, unusually for the prize, more than half of them were women. This year, the first time the criteria have been opened up to authors from outside the Commonwealth, Ireland and Zimbabwe, the picture is, as you can see, very different:

So let’s recap. That’s three women, and one a half non-white people (the half being Joseph O’Neill who has Turkish ancestry). The youngest white man is 40, and most of them are at least into their fifties. They are representing four countries from three continents: Britain, Ireland, Australia, and the USA.

This is not okay.

Everyone has a responsibility to recognize their own internal biases and act upon them, especially the board of an internationally famous and celebrated Literary Prize such like the Man Booker Prize. Who, incidentally, look like this:

Without having read any of the books longlisted, and acknowledging that I disagreed with a number of the nominations last year, I don’t doubt that all thirteen novels are worthy of praise. However, for one of the most prestigious book awards to essentially ignore such a wide proportion of the authors who are writing in the world today especially since the criteria is even wider this year, is inexcusable.

It suggests that the only people who have stories worth experiencing are those that come out of the Western world, either through birth, or in the case of Neel Mukherjee who is “representing” Britain and studied at the University of East Anglia, naturalisation.

It suggests that the only people who have stories worth experiencing are those who are older and therefore better.

It suggests that there are very few women who have stories worth experiencing.

It does in fact, suggest somewhat ironically, given the changed rules and the fact that the announcement comes on the eve of the opening of the Commonwealth Games, a very un-Post-Colonial attitude to literature.

It definitely hints at the rather murky undertones to the concept of the Commonwealth that everyone, at least here in Britain, is taught not to think about.

It is not okay.

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The Family Way

First, an apology. I know I’ve fallen behind with my blogging (though if you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll know I’m still reading plenty of books), and I’m sorry. I fully intend to rectify this as soon as things get a bit less manic (hopefully by the end of this week!)

However, more importantly, I’m pleased to reveal that The Family Way, a new anthology featuring my first published short story, Elizabeth, was published today, and is available for purchase on Amazon.co.uk and .Com, or on CreateSpace if you’d rather not buy from Amazon.

Needless to say, I am very excited about this.

The Family Way

“Happy families are all alike; Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Everybody has, or once had, a family, but families vary. Some are traditional – Mum, Dad, 2.4 children – some have only one parent, some two, some many. You may have a dozen brothers and sisters, or you may have none. THE FAMILY WAY is a bravura collection of original fiction about families old and new, small and large, happy and unhappy, normal and strange, human and otherwise from the publishers of THE LAST POST. This special edition of THE FAMILY WAY features seventeen striking illustrations by Meghan Hawkes.

Forward to the Future

So, this post has come about a month after I had wanted to actually publish it, but never mind! The last year of reading was very fulfilling, and though at times I was quite stressed by the looming deadline, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, primarily because it actually made me sit down and read books, rather than spending most of my time on other less worthwhile pursuits.

Continue reading “Forward to the Future”

Prizes Aplenty: 2013’s Nobel and Booker Prizes discussed

I’m rather frustrated that possibly the two biggest news stories in the literary world happened at practically the same time, at a time I’m unable to get online to comment on the results. Nonetheless, I’m going to weigh-in (rather belatedly I admit) with my thoughts on the winners.

Continue reading “Prizes Aplenty: 2013’s Nobel and Booker Prizes discussed”

The Man Booker Prize, 2013

When the Man Booker Shortlist was announced, I had read six books from the Longlist and was half way through a seventh. I’d hoped to have read all thirteen, but some had fairly late publication dates, Edinburgh City Libraries didn’t have all of them in stock, and even though I reserved all the ones they did have on the day the Longlist was announced, I still ended up waiting over a month for them. Still, I think fifty percent is a fairly good proportion, especially since of the eight I’d begun, four made it onto the short list.

Continue reading “The Man Booker Prize, 2013”

A Novel Idea: An Instagram for Books (The Best of Book Riot)

“Through the magic of Instagram, the average person with a cellphone camera can take a normal picture and add depth, grit, and even a sense of made-to-order nostalgia. Now imagine an app that would let you apply this same capability to literature. Something that would allow you to–with just a few swipes on your smartphone–take a pedestrian piece of prose and instantly transform it into something more memorable…”

A Novel Idea: An Instagram for Books (The Best of Book Riot).

Ian McEwan on his novels as A-level set texts

Clearly no one has told Ian McEwan that it doesn’t matter what he think’s any more!

In an interview with The Guardian last year, the author of Atonement and Enduring Love discussed the teaching of his novels as A-Level set texts. More specifically, the fact he got an inside view into the system when his own son was studying the latter text, and received a low mark for an essay because the tutor disagreed with the interpretation that his father had helped him with.

To be fair, I’m still not sure I do necessarily subscribe to the ideas of The Death of the Author, but it’s still amusing to see Isaac Asimov’s humorous anecdote and story brought to lifre