Submitted by Alice on Fri, 2016-09-02 15:25
Eleanor Catton’s 2013 Man Booker winner, The Luminaries, came in at a thigh-crushing 848 pages. Spare a thought then for the BBC’s cadre of scriptwriters when it was announced that the novel had been optioned for television: cue gibbering all round – a great gig yes, but a daunting one too. How appropriate then – poetic justice, some might say – that the author of the work has also been tasked with adapting it. Catton, a TV novice, has thrown herself wholeheartedly into the task: “Learning to write for television has been a bit like learning a new musical instrument: the melody is more or less the same, but absolutely everything else is different,” she says. Nevertheless, “I'm having enormous fun, learning every day, and just so excited to see the world of the novel created in the flesh.” Whether she’ll still be having fun when she hits page 700 is another matter. The clock is ticking: filming of the six one-hour episodes for BBC2 begins in New Zealand next year.
If you have ever wondered what goes through a celebrated writer’s head during a book signing, Ian McEwan (Man Booker winner in 1998) gives a startling insight. Ahead of the publication of his new novel, Nutshell, and the signings and appearances that will follow, he confessed to an occasional fear: “Someone’s going to come up, especially in the States, shooting at my chest, you know. It would be quite easy. It has often crossed my mind, especially after there’s been some kind of mass shooting.” Not that he has any concrete reason for this anxiety: “Occasionally someone comes towards me and I think, uh-oh, where’s the guard? Some glowering, frowning guy who’s somewhat overweight shambles up to the table, and you think, yes, he’s got something on his mind.” So, has any glowering guy ever cocked a pistol? No, he always “turns out to be utterly charming”.
In the same interview McEwan also threw an interesting light on the difference between male and female readers. Confronted with a pile of unwanted books he decided to take them to a park and give them away: “The women were all, ‘Oh lovely, thank you.’ And the men were ‘Nah, you’re all right, mate. Nah, sorry mate, nah.’” Some literary chap must have accepted a copy though? “Not one book.” One for the anthropologists to ponder.
Another former Man Booker winner, Aravind Adiga, has a new novel coming out: Selection Day. Unlike Ian McEwan, however, he has no fear of being shot by a random reader, not least because he rarely makes public appearances. “Book festivals?” says the modest Mr Adiga, “I attended one in Chennai about three years ago. I have no objection to them, but no one invites me anymore.”
With the Man Booker shortlist announcement only a week and a smidge away (13th September 2016) the current odds, for those still itching to place a bet, have Deborah Levy (Hot Milk) as favourite at 5/1 and, for those hoping for a greater bang-to-buck ratio, David Means (Hystopia) and Virginia Reeves (Work Like Any Other) at 16/1 offer real get-rich-quick potential. Should you lose your shirt, however, this column believes in a gamble sensibly policy and disclaims all responsibility.