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Longlistee leaves it late

Longlistee leaves it late

With the revealing of the Man Booker shortlist only a matter of days away – on 15 September – one of those longlisted authors hoping to make the cut is Sunjeev Sahota, author of The Year of the Runaways. Sahota's literary rise is particularly remarkable because, the grandson of Sikh immigrants, he was initially a talented mathematician and high numeracy and high literacy have a pesky habit of not always going together. This may be why Sahota hadn't even read a novel until he was 18. However, he has made up for lost time since. And how.


John Banville, Man Booker winner in 2005 with The Sea, has just published a new novel, The Blue Guitar. Rather than being quietly thrilled, he has, it seems, a heavy heart. The book, he reckons, is ‘Another fine vintage failure. It has to be a failure because I aim for perfection. Everybody does. But all works of art are failures.’ As a failure he has not only won the Man Booker but a clutch of other high-profile literary awards, so perhaps he isn't to be trusted. During the course of the interview the question of eroticism was raised: ‘I can't think of a more heterosexual person than I am,’ responded Banville, ‘but there's something in me where I prefer women, to men, to talk to. My nightmare dinner party is a table full of men. Jesus, the testosterone!’


Another Man Booker winner with a new novel out is Salman Rushdie. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights (a thousand and one nights, geddit?) is a fable that, not for the first time in his career, draws on an ancient story-telling past, the Arabian Nights and so on. So it comes as a slight surprise that he is a keen tweeter with 1.06 million followers which is, he points out, rather useful: ‘when you have a book coming out, it’s not unhelpful to have a million people to talk to, and the million people have been self-selecting in that they are interested in what you have to say’. So that large group will be interested to hear him say, albeit rather immodestly, that the new book ‘might be the funniest of my novels. I have to say that even Andrew Wylie [his agent, also known as ‘the Jackal’] when he was reading it said he was laughing out loud, and that’s not easy to achieve”. It is hyenas who are supposed to laugh, not jackals.


As the filming of Julian Barnes's 2011 MB winner, The Sense of an Ending, progresses some shots of the actors at work are beginning to emerge. Papped this week was Michelle Dockery taking a break from her Downton Abbey corsets and wearing Ugg boots and a leather jacket instead, oh, and to finish the look a fake pregnancy bump too. Although the film remains far from completion CBS clearly think it will be a good thing: they have just picked up distribution rights in America.


Yet another Man Booker novel heading for the big screen is Tan Twan Eng's 2012 shortlisted The Garden of Evening Mists. Details so far are sketchy but Huzir Sulaiman has apparently completed the screenplay. There is a rumour that the former Bond girl Michelle Yeoh will take a leading role but the source for this appears to be nothing more substantial than the fact that she told Italian Vogue in an interview that she was a big fan of the book. Seems a good enough reason...