DBC Pierre, Man Booker winner in 2003 with Vernon God Little, gives an idea of just what a big deal the prize is in a writer's life. Speaking in India at The Mumbai LitFest he confessed that ‘It’s taken me 10 years to recover from the Booker, to recover from all the pressure and what I’ve learnt about publishing. With this book [he is in the middle of writing it], I don’t care anymore what anyone thinks, which is how it should be. With the others, I was thinking, ‘Oh my editor wants this’. . . this will be the first book since Vernon God Little where I have expressed myself clearly, the way I would if it was never to be published.’ He also mentioned that as an aspiring writer he once met Fernanda Pivano – the muse of Hemingway, Kerouac, Vidal, Ginsberg and Burroughs (a busy lady) – who told him: ‘You need a figura!’ The identity she suggested was that he should put it about that he had been ‘raised by foxes on the mountainside’. ‘I never used it,’ says Pierre. Shame.
Marlon James, this year’s Man Booker winner with A Brief History of Seven Killings, has been musing on the effect winning the prize has had on his life (it is only a tad over a month since he was named the victor). The big change has been the level of scrutiny he now faces. ‘The media attention is different,’ he says. ‘What I find is the non literary media person will come sniffing around for dirt, but there’s no real dirt. It’s quite hilarious. The Daily Mail interviewed my friends in Jamaica to find out if I was ever the victim of a vicious homophobic attack, because to them I’m a gay refugee. But nothing like that happened. So no surprise, that story didn’t appear. I’m really pretty boring.’ Boring he is one thing he is not. For lovers of trivia James also revealed that the first page of the novel was not the first page he wrote: that honour actually belongs to page 458. Use the info to amaze your friends.
Howard Jacobson, Man Booker winner in 2010, has been in fine, well, Jacobsonian form recently when defending this year's winner, Marlon James, against a reviewer who took against A Brief History of Seven Killings.
Lisa Jardine, the writer, critic, broadcaster and Chair of the judges for the 2002 Man Booker Prize was a professor of renaissance studies at University College London and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society.
You might think, given that A Brief History of Seven Killings is based around an assassination attempt on Bob Marley, that the musical tastes of the Man Booker 2015 winner Marlon James would tend towards the reggae end of the spectrum.
First there were 156 novels and then 13, then six and now, at last, just the one - Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings.