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The Man Booker's global appeal, Scottish independence and Martha Kearney's bees

The Man Booker's global appeal, Scottish independence and Martha Kearney's bees

Congratulations to Donal Ryan, Man Booker longlisted this year for The Spinning Heart, who has just won the Guardian's £10,000 First Book Prize. Ryan described the usual reaction that greets him when he is asked what the novel is about: “I often pause for too long and then mumble something about a village and the recession and polyphony and watch as the person's eyes glaze over. I desperately add that there's a murder – and a kidnap! – but it's usually too late.”

 

The importance of the Man Booker in the American books scene can be seen in the Washington Post's recent diary of the literary year. Lydia Davis' winning of the Man Booker International Prize in May is noted, as is, of course, Eleanor Catton's triumph in October. Also featured are the rule changes for 2014 which mean that American novelists will now be eligible for the prize and Alice Munro's Nobel Prize win four years after she picked up the Man Booker International. All proof that the Man Booker has long been global.

 

The cultural infiltration of the Man Booker was also in evidence in discussion of the Scottish National Party's White Paper setting out its vision of an independent Scotland. Not the obvious territory for a literary prize you'd have thought. But a droll piece in the Financial Times thought Alex Salmond's document should be “viewed as a fiction text” then, “it’s absolutely fabulous stuff that sits squarely within the ‘fantasy fiction’ genre ... It’s a cracking yarn and as a piece of fiction could be worthy of the highest of literary accolades.” One for the 2014 MB judges as well as Scottish voters then.

 

Copies of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and signed copies of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (MB winner in 2009) were among the star items in the recent “Authors for the Philippines” auction organised by the book trade to support the Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan Appeal. The auction at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London raised £55,124 for the Red Cross appeal.

 

In a recent interview, DBC Pierre, MB winner in 2003 with Vernon God Little, spoke about how he struggled as a writer to come to terms with his post-MB success. While his prize-winning story was completely his own work, his subsequent fiction was written with others in mind. “Being published means there are so many people in your head suddenly and you know exactly what they want and it isn't necessarily what you want. The world of publishing. . . doesn't admit that side of itself, so many of these pressures manifest in subtle ways.” It has, he says, taken him 10 years to shut the other voices out and get back to the Vernon God Little state of grace.

 

Martha Kearney, one of this year's MB judges, is best known as a television and radio journalist. She recently revealed though that her real passion is for bees. She has six hives at her Suffolk home that produce a whopping 150lb of honey. "My bees are productive and well behaved" she says. One would expect nothing less from the immaculate Miss Kearney.