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Marlon James holds do-gooders to account

Marlon James holds do-gooders to account

The reigning Man Booker laureate Marlon James has been flexing his new high-profile muscles outside the world of books. In a recent video short for the Guardian he issued a potent call to arms on the subject of race. Spurred by the recent spate of police shootings in America of young black men James drew a clear distinction between the majority of citizens being non-racist and being anti-racist. Non-racist, he said, means feeling good about oneself but ‘Not doing a damn thing.’ Anti-racist means recognising that ‘We need to get active. We need to hold people accountable. We need to accept that what hurts one of us hurts all of us.’ He widened this call of action to other spheres too – climate change for example. James's stance has gone down a storm: at the time of writing, the video, only a couple of minutes long, is the most viewed Guardian-produced video ever with 7 million views. One wonders whether people would be listening so intently were he not the Man Booker winner?

            A James footnote: the novelist has been invited to deliver the 2016 annual Bob Marley lecture hosted by the Institute of Caribbean Studies & the Reggae Studies Unit at the University of the West Indies. Now why isn't there a Reggae Studies Unit at, say, Oxford or Cambridge?


Anuradha Roy was one of the longlisted novelists James pipped to the prize last year. Any twinge she may feel on missing out will have been salved a little by her annointment as the winner of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The prize covers fiction from a huge geographical area and previous winners such as Jeet Thayil and Jhumpa Lahiri have also gone on to make their mark on the Man Booker. Roy picked up a cheque for $50,000 for Sleeping on Jupiter at the Fairway Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka and the chair of judges, the distinguished journalist Mark Tully, had warm words for her: ‘We chose Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy because of its elegance, flair and readability. It raises many issues succinctly and with commendable economy of words . . . We believe this book will be a source of inspiration to other writers.’


Two more of last year's Man Booker crop, Sunjeev Sohota and Chigozie Obioma, are also in the running for a lucrative prize. Both have been longlisted for the £30,000 Dylan Thomas Prize for young writers – that is, 39 or under. The shortlist will be announced in March, and the winner revealed on International Dylan Thomas Day, 14 May. Of course, impartiality is the watchword but Sarah Hall, a Man Booker shortlistee in 2004 and longlistee in 2009, is one of the judges.


Breaking news: ‘Man Booker winner causes traffic chaos.’ The Stroud News and Journal recently reported that Ian McEwan was responsible for bringing a local road to a standstill. It seems that the 1998 MB winner had ordered a swimming pool and the delivery lorry bearing its wide load had trouble negotiating the local lanes around the village of Miserden, near where the writer lives. A local barman witnessed the dramatic scene:  ‘It came through and got stuck at Wishhanger, which is quite a steep and tight through road. They had to lower the truck to get it through as it got stuck on a tree.’ A local driver was also inconvenienced, getting stuck behind the lorry: ‘I was on my way home from work and had to wait at the cross roads at the bottom of The Camp . . . the driver did really well to negotiate the narrow lane.’ You heard it here first. Next week: Hilary Mantel has a new sofa delivered . . .