Submitted by Leah on Fri, 2014-08-08 17:01
At the risk of being rude to this year's Man Booker longlisted authors, The Australian has just pointed out a mouthwatering prospect for next year's prize. The Man Booker has only three more-than-once winners – J.M. Coetzee, Peter Carey and Hilary Mantel have all won twice. Mantel and Carey are both scheduled to have new novels out in time for next year's prize: Carey with Amnesia, a tale set mainly in Australia and spanning the Second World War to the present, and Mantel with The Mirror and the Light, the final volume of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy (spoiler alert . . . he gets the chop). If the Man Booker is the prize for literature's heavyweights this pairing – if that is, they are selected, promises a super-heavyweight bout on the bill.
D.B.C. Pierre, Man Booker winner in 2003 with Vernon God Little has been discussing horror ahead of the publication of his new book, Breakfast with the Borgias. We wrap our fears into symbols, he thinks, and ‘symbols are native to dreams’. For his particular symbols he chooses, bizarrely, chickens – ‘it is as if we're born with a flock of dormant hens inside which react to the growing dark on our behalf. We recognise them without identifying what darkness set them off; so when they scatter we just know it's dark, and shudder. And perhaps then as artists some of us spend a life painting hens instead of dark.’ Thomas Harris put this another way, calling the phenomenon ‘the silence of the lambs’. ‘The silence of the hens’ doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
An early winner of the then Booker Prize was William Golding with Rites of Passage. An even earlier book, The Spire, is now being recorded as an unabridged audiobook for the first time, with Benedict Cumberbatch doing the voicing. Fans of his Sherlock Holmes might find this story of a man obsessed with constructing a spire on a cathedral built without foundations on marshy ground a bit of a departure. Where did Golding get the idea for the book? Elementary, he lived near Salisbury Cathedral for 15 years, a church built without foundations on marshy ground . . .
The Guardian recently asked various writers to send in a holiday snap that encapsulated a memory for them. Among those who obliged were the Man Bookerites Penelope Lively (winner 1987), Howard Jacobson (winner 2010 and longlisted again this year) and Will Self (shortlisted 2012). While Lively's sweet picture shows her aged nine on a beach in Alexandria in 1942 – ‘Rommel's army is 70 miles away’ – and Self's the lunar landscape of the beach at Mappleton on the Holderness coast of east Yorkshire, Jacobson's is altogether different. It is a simple, smiling picture of his son and granddaughter on a Spanish beach but, says Jacobson, behind this happy scene there is melancholy. ‘I doubt I could find a comparable photograph of myself’, he writes. ‘Summers have always saddened me. The sun comes out and I think of death. I can't satisfactorily explain this.’ So no point in looking for Jacobson on a sun-lounger somewhere, pina colada in hand. He won't be found.