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Dishing the dirt on Marlon James

Dishing the dirt on Marlon James

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.


The annual Books of the Year season, during which newspaper and magazine critics recommend their favourite reading of 2015, is almost on us. It has come a bit early in America where the Wall Street Journal, in a US-centric overview, points out that ‘while there is always a range of opinion, the critics this year, it seems, couldn’t agree on anything’. The article then goes on to name-check assorted novels, from Jonathan Franzen’s Purity to the Pulitzer Prize-winning (and bestselling) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Both had their vociferous admirers and equally noisy detractors. Two Man Booker shortlistee’s were also singled out: Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life and Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family. If all that the critics can agree on is that they don’t agree, where does that leave the uncommitted general reader? As the UK Books of the Year features start appearing perhaps a clearer picture will emerge.


Waterstone’s booksellers across the country have pooled their nominations to come up with their own Book of the Year shortlist. The eight books cover several categories, from non-fiction (Mary Beard’s SPQR) to children’s books (Coralie Bickford-Smith’s The Fox and the Star). Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life features as ‘undoubtedly one of the most talked about novels of the year’. We can only assume that means talked about in a good way rather than a bad way.


At least the judges of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2016 can agree that a couple of recent Man Booker novels are indeed among the best of the crop. The prize is awarded to an author of any ethnicity or nationality who writes about South Asia and its people. Last year’s winner was Jhumpa Lahiri for The Lowland (Man Booker shortlisted 2013) and this year’s nominees include Neel Mukherjee (The Lives of Others, shortlisted 2014) and Anuradha Roy (Sleeping on Jupiter, shortlisted 2015). Mukherjee and Roy will find out if they have bagged the $50,000 prize on 26 November.