Submitted by Leah on Fri, 2013-06-07 17:32
So, Hilary Mantel missed out on adding another literary accolade to her bulging bag of prizes. The Women's Prize, which used to be the Orange Prize and, as of next year, will be renamed the Baileys Prize (a Baileys and orange sounds like a particularly heinous cocktail) was awarded on Wednesday to A.M. Homes. A shame, since Mantel's hero Thomas Cromwell, the son of a Putney brewer, would have been an appropriate figure to usher in the new sponsor. Henry VIII's Mr Fixit might have been a stranger to brandy-based cream liqueurs but he will have quaffed some curious confections of his own in his time.
Mantel, in a recent newspaper Q&A, was full of surprises. First she confessed to a dislike of Charles Dickens's novels: “I have a block about Dickens,” she said. “I know I’m missing something great; everybody says so. But I can’t stand his moralising and crass sentimentality and the galumphing humour.” Then she revealed that her shelves contain “Stacks of books on cricket. I am fascinated by its history. It’s a story told in match statistics, but it’s also bred some stylish prose. My head is full of the ghosts of men in white playing games before the Great War.” And her ideal reading experience? “I’d like to be at home, in my apartment by the sea in Devon, sitting in the sunshine by a window and picking up some vast, immersive novel, like Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith, which I read as if I were a child, utterly thrilled and beguiled by it.” Mantel, of course, pipped Waters's The Little Stranger to the 2009 Man Booker Prize.
If you would like to read the full encomium Christopher Ricks, the chair of the Man Booker International Prize judges, recently delivered to guests when awarding Lydia Davis the prize, it has just been printed by the TLS. It is a fine example of one thoughtful prose stylist writing in praise of another. It is evidence too of just how much work and care goes into selecting the winner of such a prestigious prize.
The Independent recently published a curious piece listing the top 10 books people buy but don't read. It is an eclectic list that makes no claims to be a scientific survey. Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom sits at the top and Bill and Hillary Clinton's My Life and Living History are there too, alongside “any of Jamie Oliver's books”. Oddly, at number four, is Yann Martel's Man Booker-winning Life of Pi. Since the book has recently passed sales of 3,141,593 (pi = 3.14) and counting that's a lot of non-reads or, alternatively, the poll could simply be plain wrong.