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Man Booker Weekly Round-Up: Tentacles, foxes and other tales

Man Booker Weekly Round-Up: Tentacles, foxes and other tales

A useful test that prize administrators might want to consider when next appointing a panel of judges – a reading speed test (try it, it takes about a minute) from the office supplies company Staples. Given that the number of submissions for the Man Booker Prize is consistently above 130 titles each year, an indication of just how quickly judges can read might be a kindness. No news yet though as to whether this year’s batch have taken the test but one can only hope for their sakes that they read considerably quicker than the national average.

Ruth Ozeki, one of last year’s Man Booker shortlistees with A Tale for the Time Being, has just picked up the literary world’s oddest trophy, the Kitschies Red Tentacle Prize. The award is for novels containing “elements of the speculative and fantastic” and the trophy is indeed a hand-crafted tentacle (accompanied by a £1,000 and a bottle of Kraken rum). Conjuring up an interior-decorator’s nightmare, Ozeki commented: “My tentacle will go on the wall next to my wooden cow head, my benthic anglerfish and my inflatable rhinoceros beetle.”

Still with animals, several Man Booker writers were asked to draw a fox to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the literary quarterly Slightly Foxed (with proceeds going to Great Ormond Street Hospital). It is safe to say that most of the invitees are considerably better writers than they are artists. Kazuo Ishiguro (Man Booker winner in 1989) raised his game and drew the disreputable younger brother of Basil Brush; Robert Macfarlane, chairman of last year’s judges, conjured up a circular and what charitably might be called a near-heraldic creature; Andrew Motion (chairman of the 2010 panel) meanwhile drew a strange-looking animal carrying off an unfortunate chicken. It is fair to say that his Reynard, with its very odd tail, calls on a considerable amount of poetic licence.

While taking a break from touring the world to talk about her Man Booker-winning The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton has been reflecting on her new fame. Her life has indeed changed she acknowledges but, in the middle of a quiet period, where she’s “just been doing a lot of reading”, it doesn’t seem to have changed irrevocably . . . except that “I have to think about what I say on Twitter, or think in a different way … that kind of thing takes a bit of adjusting.”

The jury for the Giller Prize – Canada’s premier literary award – has just been announced and it features Justin Cartwright. It is a shrewd choice; Cartwright knows a thing or two about prizes having been Man Booker shortlisted in 1995 and also served on the Man Booker International jury in 2011. The $50,000 prize will be announced a month after the Man Booker, on November 10th