Submitted by Leah on Fri, 2014-02-07 17:10
Disappointment for fans of Philip Roth, winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2011 – he is sticking to his decision not to write any more fiction. What's more, after a lifetime of writing, he's not finding it hard: “I did what I did and it's done. There's more to life than writing and publishing fiction. There is another way entirely, amazed as I am to discover it at this late date”, he recently told an interviewer. So what does the excoriating writer fascinated by sex, death, ageing and the human condition do instead? “I swim, I follow baseball, look at the scenery, watch a few movies, listen to music, eat well and see friends. In the country I am keen on nature.” It seems too gentle an existence for Roth, surely taking a break from the movies and the birds to write a short story wouldn't hurt?
An article on a respected Australian website suggests two curious reasons for Eleanor Catton's Man Booker Prize success: rugby and isolation. Rugby, because in New Zealand, Catton's home, the sport is so all-pervasive that you have to be something really special to get noticed above it. And geographical isolation because it meant she wasn't shackled by a national literary past. Talking of her time in an American university Catton said: “One of my strong cultural impressions was how much my American colleagues felt that what they were doing was either inside or outside of various traditions. There was this real burden of influence that, you know, if you were writing short sentences, you were in the Hemingway school. And that had just never been true of my way of thinking about the world.” So for would-be novelists, there is the formula to follow.
Catton's The Luminaries is about to be turned into a television series. The 832-page book is to be squeezed into seven episodes (there were going to be 12 to match the chapter structure of the book but it would have proved too expensive). Catton herself has been signed up to help with the adaptation. She is not against changes to the story apparently though she has drawn her own line in the sand: a clause in her contract forbids the series writers from killing off any characters unless she gives her permission.
Another MB novel also to be adapted is Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture (shortlisted in 2008). The book tells the story of Roseanne McNulty who is about to turn 100 in a mental hospital. How she got there in the first place is what her psychiatrist Dr Grene sets out to discover. Vanessa Redgrave is set to play the older Roseanne and the academy award-nominated Jessica Chastain the younger woman. No news yet though of when the film might appear. While we're at it, the film of John Banville's 2005 MB-winning The Sea (as previous discussed in this column) now has a release date – 18th April. It won a prize at last year's Edinburgh International Film Festival so expectations are as high as the tide.