Submitted by Leah on Fri, 2015-12-18 11:52
It is the year of the women at the Man Booker. When Helena Kennedy recently took over from Jonathan Taylor as the chair of the Booker Prize Foundation she likened the Man Booker set-up to a girl band with herself, Gaby Wood (the new literary director), Fiammetta Rocco (director of the Man Booker International Prize), Eve Smith (the secretary of the Booker Prize Foundation) and Dotti Irving (the prizes' head of publicity) as the Bookerettes, sashaying in synchronised harmony. This literary girl group now has a new addition with the announcement of the historian Amanda Foreman as chair of the 2016 Man Booker Prize judges. There's room too for one of the other judges, the actress Olivia Williams, to bring her tambourine. To mangle the metaphor completely, the other judges (male) – Jon Day, David Harsent, Abdulrazak Gurnah – must be the sound technicians and lighting technicians who help the whole show to be staged.
The current Man Booker laureate, Marlon James, famously likes his music. He is also a fashionable kind of guy with a sartorial style to match his prose style. Novelists tend to be more shabby than chic in their clothes choices but dapper James has just been named one of the Financial Times's ‘Best Dressed of 2015’ alongside the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Patti Smith and Harry Styles. The citation reads: ‘With his dreadlocks, sweats and Adidas hoodies, James is just as arresting in person as his powerful patois-driven prose. He claimed the [Man] Booker prize in October for A Brief History of Seven Killings. He killed it in the style stakes, too.’ It should be noted that when James picked up the Man Booker he left his hoody at home and came immaculately attired in DJ and bow tie.
Hilary Mantel, not, one suspects, a sweats and Adidas hoodies kind of woman, had another very good year. The television adaptation of her Man Booker-winning brace Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies won innumerable plaudits at the time and is having them burnished in the end-of-the-year TV round-ups – as well as being nominated for three Golden Globes. Sam Wollaston in the Guardian noted that her Thomas Cromwell, unforgettably played by Mark Rylance, ‘became one of the people of the year, 475 years after he died’. Wollaston went on to say that ‘There has been loads of good drama this year, most of which I can’t remember. Wolf Hall still lingers and haunts.’ Peter Kominsky, the series' director, has touchingly recalled the moment he showed Mantel the first rough cuts of episodes one and two: ‘I was as nervous as I’ve ever been. One is used to waiting for the reaction of executives, which can be hard – in the past, they have done real damage to my films. But when you’re talking about two extraordinary Booker-prizewinning novels by Hilary Mantel, it’s a whole other experience. She raised one hand in the air with her thumb up. She couldn’t speak because she was choked. It was a good moment.’
If you can't wait for the 2011 Man Booker winner Julian Barnes's new novel to appear you can, if you have abyss-deep pockets, apparently buy one now. Special goatkskin-bound first editions of The Noise of Time (a svelte 192-pages long), signed by Barnes, are available for £350 (plus £13 postage) from the London Review of Books Bookshop. For the less financially well-endowed there is a quarter-bound in leather edition also available for a mere £175. Normal people, however, can pick up Barnes's ‘story about the collision of Art and Power, about human compromise, human cowardice and human courage’ for a fraction of that when it is published in January.