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Marlon James's festive season

Marlon James's festive season

Marlon James, the reigning Man Booker laureate, has had a very good festive season. His name cropped up left, right and centre. Whether they had read A Brief History of Seven Killings or have yet to do so, it seems that people like the idea of Marlon James. The Guardian, for example, ran an alternative New Year's honours list and there was James among Malala Yousafzai, the 92-year-old Mog author Judith Kerr and Nadiya Hussain from The Great British Bake Off (a show fronted, of course, by Sue Perkins, a Man Booker judge in 2009). James's ‘citation’ noted that ‘The Man Booker prize-winner habitually brings more to the literary world than literature, and Marlon James is no exception. The success of his third novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, catapulted him and Caribbean writing into a welcome spotlight . . . His book, hailed as ‘extraordinary’, explores homosexuality and homophobia against the backdrop of an assassination attempt on Bob Marley in his homeland. There were easier paths to success. James eschewed them. By confronting taboos head on, he set an example for others to follow.’ No news about the investiture yet though.


James, now a cultural reference point, also had a walk-on part of sorts in Quentin Tarantino's new film The Hateful Eight. When reviewing the film, again for the Guardian, the critic Peter Bradshaw commented that: ‘Man Booker-winning novelist Marlon James has been called 'Tarantinoesque' and what The Hateful Eight does is remind you that this comparison is not just about the violence or the energy: it’s about the writing.’ Perhaps it would be truer to suggest that Tarantino is Jamesesque.


Turn to Rolling Stone magazine and there's James again, this time in an interview in which he revealed that he once underwent a real exorcism. The demon he was trying to rid himself of was not satanic but his gayness. The interviewer recounts how James, in his mid-thirties, ‘found himself in a room one morning with two preachers and two garbage bags, hoping to pray the gay away. ‘There was the laying of hands and speaking in tongues to drag out the demons,’ James says. ‘At some point, I started vomiting – hence the bags.’ When James left the exorcism, he was still as gay as ever.’ There was one benefit, however – the episode helped him to finish his first novel, John Crow's Devil, about a religious cult.


Over at the Independent meanwhile James looked back at the year, and the event, that changed his life. Of the Mab Booker evening itself he has only hazy memories: ‘When really amazing events like winning the Man Booker happen, the last thing you remember is how it feels,’ he said. ‘You're in a daze, you're without thought, you're shocked. I was most concerned with not stumbling and falling on the way to the podium.’ And the future now looks different to what he had envisaged: ‘I thought there would be a tour for the paperback, hopefully I'd make an independent bookseller's bestseller list, read over my efforts, and then go after the next project. With winning the Man Booker you pretty much know the next year is changed irrevocably, in a great way. It's also a lot of work and a lot of stress, but any time I start to think of complaining I just think that the Marlon James from five years ago would so have cracked to have these problems.’ So more interviews will be forthcoming but no more exorcisms.