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Weekly Roundup: The responsibility of being a judge and Salman Rushdie talks Aeros

Weekly Roundup: The responsibility of being a judge and Salman Rushdie talks Aeros

There is a neat link (besides the Man Booker imprimatur) between this year’s Man Booker longlist and the newly-announced judges for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. In 1976 Marina Warner, chair of the Man Booker International panel (described by the prize administrator Fiammetta Rocco as a group of judges “steeped in the literature of all seven continents”), wrote Alone of All Her Sex, a cultural history of the Virgin Mary. In the book she wondered if she had lost her appeal and might become as distant as the deities of ancient Greece. Not so it seems: the Virgin’s continued hold on the imagination is evidenced by Colm Tóibín’s presence on the Man Booker longlist with The Testament of Mary.

Winning the Man Booker can change an author’s life and Natalie Haynes, one of this year’s Man Booker judges, has admitted to worrying about the responsibility. Publication of the Forbes list of the top 10 grossing authors (with E.L. James of 50 Shades fame at the pinnacle with annual earnings of $95 million) has, paradoxically, eased her fears. She reasons that, however successful the next Man Booker winner turns out to be, their earnings are likely to pale into insignificance beside those of James, James Patterson ($91 million), Stephen King ($20 million) et al. so with one bound the pressure is off.

One of this year’s longlisted writers, Eleanor Catton, was recently asked about growing up in a home without a television: was it horrific? “Endlessly,” she replied but there was something far, far worse: “my parents didn't own a car for quite a few years, so it was a double whammy. We biked around Christchurch on a fleet of bicycles (two tandems and one single), and I died with embarrassment every time I was spotted by a classmate at school.” So whatever the Man Booker throws up it is safe to assume she will cope.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Salman Rushdie, Man Booker winner with Midnight’s Children, turned his thoughts away from heavyweight topics such as fatwas and haut-literature to a more innocent stage in his writing career. One early job was working as an advertising copywriter. “I invented this campaign for Aero chocolate bars,” he recalled. “With bubble words: adorabubble, irresistibubble, delectabubble. Bus signs that said transportabubble. Shop signs that said availabubble. Trade ads that said profitabubble.” Where did the idea come from? “The guy I was working with had a stammer. We were sitting in a room trying to think of an idea and said, 'It's ******* impossibubble.' It was my one genuine lightbulb moment.”

That horny handed son of toil, Alan Titchmarsh, offered readers of the Daily Telegraph, some thoughts about holiday reading: “these Man Booker Prize winners are all very well,”, he opined, “but what you really need on holiday is a comfort read . . . so put aside the lamb tagine and instead tuck into the steak and kidney pud”. One imagines that is the first time Hilary Mantel, Howard Jacobson et al have been likened to a North African meat dish. He did though single out Kazuo Ishiguro’s Man Booker winner, The Remains of the Day for praise: “It’s a gem” … but then perhaps he was thinking of a “Little Gem” lettuce to go with that tagine.