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Marlon James and the Iron Throne

Marlon James and the Iron Throne

With less than a week to go before the announcement of the Man Booker shortlist on the 13th of September, Marlon James, the 2015 winner, has bigger fish to fry. He has recently taken aim at Game of Thrones: he's not worried about the dragons, the army of the dead, or whether Queen Cersei will kill everyone left standing but about the writing. It just wasn't good enough, he reckons: “The [first] two good episodes were so good, I was starting to imagine that the whole season would be like them,” he said before sliding the stiletto in. “But what we got was some of the worst plotting and character development I've ever seen on a long running show. It was almost as if the two things were handled by two different writers who didn't even speak to each other.” Game of Thrones fans are famously obsessive so there'll now be more than a few who won't be talking to him.

Arundhati Roy's shortlisted The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has spawned a unique offshoot. An Indian design company has turned the novel into a fascinating immersive experience – like reading but different. Re:Reader takes sections of the novel, adds classical Indian music, computer graphics, innovative typography and animation to present Roy's story in a strange and haunting way. The idea behind it was to transmit the experience of reading the novel without actually reading it: it was not designed as a replacement for settling down with the book but a teaser for those who have yet to start it and an intriguing supplement for those who already have. Words cannot really explain the effect, so it is best to try it here

Paul Beatty, the current Man Booker laureate, spoke recently about his unease with tags: his Man Booker winner The Sellout is, for example, almost inevitably referred to as a satire – a label he says that is “the easy way out, in a weird kind of way. Or the easy way in.” It is also always called a novel about race, but “I've never read a book that wasn't about race, you know? Ulysses? That's about race, to me. All the books are about f…... race, they are. It's also about perspectives, what perspectives we're allowed to read from.” He confessed though that he was entirely in favour of one particular label that had been put on him: the father of one his students recently described him as “the last great Jewish writer”. Beatty is not Jewish but he'll take the compliment. 

Salman Rushdie's new novel, The Golden House, is set in the timespan between the inauguration of Obama and ends with the election of Trump. In an interview he let slip a previously unknown – and unexpected – fact. Many year ago, Rushdie sat next to Trump at Madison Square Garden at a Crosby, Stills & Nash concert. Also present were “the then much younger Ivanka and the disgusting boys. And the thing that surprised me was that he was on his feet and knew all the words to all the songs. Donald Trump knows the words to Woodstock?!” As if wary of over-humanising the now President, Rushdie also made clear that “I think the great boundary is to not tolerate people who would destroy the world that makes it able to tolerate people” – even if they tolerate 1960s folk-rock vocal groups.

Another former Man Booker winner, Roddy Doyle (1993 with Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha), has been talking money. Obviously winning the prize did wonders for his bank balance as well as his prestige; it was, he says, one of those “pieces of work that made quite a lot of money”. The most recent of which was the musical of his film The Commitments: “That was great because I’m quite content earning a lot of money.” He also recounts a story about how he is perceived as a cool Dubliner rather than just as, in his words, a “bald man with glasses”. He was giving interviews in Milan about 15 years ago ahead of the The Commitments release, and a media couple swept in, “like a scene from a Fellini film. Leather trousers, shades on a dark day. And they started – ‘where are the cool places to go in Dublin?’ I hadn’t a clue . . . They had a notion that because I wrote The Commitments, I will forever be 28.” Roddy Doyle is 59.