Submitted by Leah on Fri, 2013-05-17 16:22
Another first for Hilary Mantel (the words almost speak themselves by now). This week she sat astride the Official UK Top 50 bestseller list for the first time in her career when sales of the new paperback edition of Bring Up the Bodies hit 20,493 in its opening week of sales. In fact it is a case of multiple firsts: Mantel's is also the first Man Booker winning book ever to top the list while she is the first MB winning writer to hold the spot since Ian McEwan in 2008 (for his non MB-winning On Chesil Beach).
Congratulations too to Howard Jacobson, the 2010 Man Booker winner. His latest novel, Zoo Time, has just scooped the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing. He is now a two-time winner having first triumphed in 2000 with The Mighty Walzer. The real prize is kudos but the victor also gets a jeroboam of champagne and a Gloucester Old Spot pig which then takes the name of the winning book. “I am only sorry my pig has to be called Zoo Time”, said Jacobson. “It feels a bit tactless. But it could have been worse. It could have been Bring Up the Bodies.” On the other hand previous winners' pigs are somewhere happily snuffling around bearing the names Snuff (Terry Pratchett), A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (Marina Lewycka) and All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye (Christopher Bookmyre).
Philip Hensher, Man Booker shortlisted in 2008, has also just snaffled a gong. His novel Scenes from Early Life has just won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize – worth £10,000 – for a book that best evokes “the spirit of a place”. The place Hensher recreated in his book is Bangladesh in the 1970s as seen through the eyes of his partner, Zaved Mahmood. Julia Blackburn, one of the judges, commented: “Maybe it is the fact of being an outsider, while at the same time being intimately connected with his narrator, that enabled Hensher to describe the hubbub of a country's political transition with such immediacy; we enter an unfamiliar world with him and smell and taste and hear it on all sides.”
Two surprising confessions from Tan Twan Eng whose Garden of Evening Mists was shortlisted for last year's Man Booker prize and which has just won the Man Asian Literary Prize. When asked what was the first novel he remembers reading his answer was not The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or some such but Shirley Conran's racy Lace: “I read it when I was eight or nine years old and I had no idea what was going on in the book.” And what scares him? “Birds and chickens terrify me. I found out there’s a name for my phobia – alektorophobia. I can eat chicken but I can’t bear to be near a live one.” Ironic really given that he himself is so mild mannered he'd barely say boo to a goose.
Stuart Kelly, one of this year's MB judges, has recently suggested that the “genre wars” (that separate fiction into categories such as “literary”, “crime”, “sci-fi”, “chic-lit” etc) were over – or almost. “I don't know of a single serious critic nowadays who would dismiss genre writing solely on the basis that it is genre writing”, he says. So why the “almost”? Blame publishers and booksellers, reckons Kelly, since they “seem the section of the literary world most wedded to genre distinctions: you'll still find China Miéville and Lauren Beukes in fantasy, Ken MacLeod and Iain M. Banks in sci-fi, Sophie Hannah and Ruth Rendell in crime, Brian Evenson and Kathe Koja in horror. We critics can praise them to the high heavens, but it doesn't change where they end up in a bookshop”.