You are here

Hull's calling and Eleanor Catton's winning

Hull's calling and Eleanor Catton's winning

In case you missed the news, Hull has been selected as the UK City of Culture for 2017. Up to this point the most important cultural signpost laid down by the East Yorkshire metropolis was Philip Larkin's long tenure there as librarian of the city's university. Hull's MP, Diana Johnston, has now written to Maria Miller the Culture Secretary with a plea for help: “In line with the original thinking around the City of Culture status, can you help the city by making sure some of our great cultural prizes, such as the Turner Prize, the Booker Prize and the Brit Awards, come to Hull in 2017?” While Ms Miller's response was non-committal (quite possibly because she has no power to decide where these prizes are held) it does raise the intriguing possibility of, say, A.S. Byatt, Julian Barnes and the sainted Hilary Mantel rubbing shoulders with Harry Styles and Grayson Perry in a few years’ time. Hold that image. Barnes got a head start, back in November, when he visited the University of Hull as part of the Booker Prize Foundation University Initiative for a successful talk to students and staff.  

Congratulations to Eleanor Catton (yet again). She has just been voted New Zealander of the Year – or rather one of three top Kiwis. The judges found it impossible to come up with just one winner and so awarded the accolade to a trio of young New Zealand women: Catton, the pop-toddler Lorde and the equally youthful golfer, Lydia Ko. All three, said the citation, were “engagingly similar in the way in which they reacted to success. Global attention at such young ages could easily have led to petulance and an overweening sense of self-importance. But they have all reacted with dignity and poise.

This was especially apparent in Eleanor Catton's acceptance speech for the Man Booker Prize. Their attitude has not passed unnoticed in a world weary of the follies and eccentricities of the most minor of celebrities.”

Man Booker titles feature strongly in one newspaper's recommendations of the best signed books to give for Christmas. A copy of The Luminaries with Catton's inscription can be had for £38, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri for £22, while Jim Crace's Harvest is a positive give-away at £20. If ever you wanted a definition of “the gift that keeps on giving” here you have it.

NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names (Man Booker Prize shortlisted this year) is one of the Guardian's picks in its list of the best African fiction of 2013. Bulawayo is at the forefront of a new wave of young African writers but, curiously, the most revered of the old guard, J.M. Coetzee, didn't make the list. His The Childhood of Jesus was published in March and was met with widespread praise. Coetzee may now live in Australia but his books are distinctively African.