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The kids aren't alright

The kids aren't alright

It is children rather than books that have been exercising the minds of two Man Booker stalwarts, the 2010 winner Howard Jacobson and one of this year's longlistees Zadie Smith. Jacobson has been lamenting the effects of the social media age: “Within 20 years”, he said, “we will have children who can’t read, who don’t want to read.” He also confessed that: “I can’t read any more as much as I used to. My concentration has been shot by this bloody screen. I can’t do it now – I want space, I want white pages, light behind the page.” Twitter in particular drew his ire because it is a platform for statements (and he had President Trump in his sights): “There are many good statements in the world, but much of the best part of thought and conversation isn’t statement, it’s exploration, inquiry, irony.” Zadie Smith, meanwhile, is troubled by the amount of time young girls, including her daughter, spend in front of the mirror.  She has given her seven-year-old a 15-minute mirror-makeup rule: “I explained it to her in these terms,” she said: “you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this. Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door and he doesn’t give a shit if you waste an hour and a half doing your makeup.”

Films and the Man Booker prize have a long intertwined history – think Schindler's Ark/Schindler's List, The Remains of the Day, The English Patient etc. One of the more eccentric collaborations, however, is that of the 2004 Man Booker longlisted writer Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road) with the forthcoming biopic of the rock group Queen. Haythe has been confirmed as the screenwriter for Bohemian Rhapsody, a project which once had Sacha Baron Cohen lined up to play Freddie Mercury (he pulled out) and begins shooting this autumn. Haythe is no stranger to the screen, having adapted his own Revolutionary Road, as well as writing the script for The Lone Ranger. He could start a trend though; who wouldn't want to see a Hilary Mantel-scripted film about Beyoncé or Julian Barnes on the Sex Pistols?

Ian McEwan is another Man Booker writer familiar with the cinema: Enduring Love and Atonement being just two of his novels that have been made into successful films. Now, two more are in the offing. Among the BBC films being given world premières at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival are adaptations of McEwan's On Chesil Beach (with a cast including Saoirse Ronan,  Emily Watson and Anne-Marie Duff) and The Children Act (starring Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci and directed by Richard Eyre, a former judge on the then Samuel Johnson Prize). Poor McEwan, he'll be wearing a groove in the red carpet.

Good news for fans of Adam Founds, a Man Booker shortlistee in 2009 with The Quickening Maze, a book about the time the poet John Clare spent in an asylum in Epping Forest. It has just been announced that his latest novel, Dream Sequence, will be published next year. The story, this time, is a thoroughly modern one, about a “brilliant but narcissistic English actor” and a “psychologically damaged American super-fan”, Kristin, who believes they are destined to be together. The publishers vouchsafed no news, however, as to whether the modestly brilliant Foulds has himself ever received the attentions of a stalker.