Submitted by Leah on Fri, 2015-08-14 13:45
Books and the microclimate around them used to be such simple things – books made of paper, reviews in national newspapers, high-street bookshops . . . that was pretty much it. Now with ebooks and the internet, bookclubs and online retailing, Twitter and YouTube the wider book world is a very different place. As much as it relishes books as artefacts (witness the specially bound editions presented to each Man Booker shortlistee) the Man Booker Prize is resolutely anti-Luddite, viz the prize's latest initiative. ‘The Man Booker Vloggers’ are a group of five literary video bloggers from Britain and Canada whose bookish sites already have a combined audience of some 140,000 subscribers. Between now and the winner announcement in October Jen Campbell, Leena Normington, Jean Menzies, Laura Whitehead and Ariel Bissett will be turning their attentions on the Man Booker Prize. The BookTubing quintet promise a mixture of reviews, readalongs (whatever they might be), discussions, predictions and general Man Booker chatter.
Despite being Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, John Sutherland, 2005 chair of Man Booker judges, is – technologically-speaking – cutting edge. He thinks the Twitter generation will mature into a book-loving generation as the urge to link up with peers lessens, or as he puts it with a real gift for metaphor, ‘If you see a whole load of horses together, they rub together – it's what young people do. As you get older, privacy becomes more important.’ As part of a tweeting experiment he has re-written 25 famous novels – from Fifty Shades of Grey to The Great Gatsby – as 140-character tweets. Here is his version of the 2002 Man Booker winner Life of Pi by Yann Martel: ‘Dr.Dolittle on Noahs ark w/magic realism: Pi’s family own zoo, sail4Canada but Pi lost@sea alone except God...and animals incl. Tiger!’ What Prof Sutherland doesn't discuss is which books he thinks would be positively improved by being reduced to 140 characters – we must all have a mental list…
Book festivals are another growth area of relatively recent vintage (is there a town in the land without one now?) and two of the biggest and best, Cheltenham and Edinburgh, will be featuring a strong Man Booker presence. Nine out of 13 of this year's longlisted novelists are scheduled to appear at Edinburgh (15th-31st August), as well as a host of other Man Booker alumni including former winners Ben Okri, Howard Jacobson and Julian Barnes and also Marina Warner, chair of this year's Man Booker International Prize judging panel. Meanwhile Cheltenham (October 2nd-11th) is holding a Man Booker day on the 10th in which the literary editor of the Times, Robbie Millen, will be talking to some of the shortlisted authors on the eve of the prize itself. Whether they will be able to concentrate knowing that one of their lives is about to change forever in a mere three days time is another matter.
If you like a flutter and are tempted to get one in early re the Man Booker longlist you'll have to be canny. There are, at the time of writing, some pretty short odds on offer: Hanya Yanagihara is the front runner with a rather less than generous 2/1 at William Hill, with Marilynne Robinson at 5/1 and Andrew O'Hagan and Anne Tyler among those at 6/1 – a tenner on them is not going to change your life. More promising returns are suggested by Anuradha Roy and Chigozie Obioma at a more munificent 16/1. Needless to say, this column does not advocate putting your shirt, let alone your house, on any of the authors. Save your money and buy their books instead is our motto.