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Rushdie and the unusually coloured hair

Rushdie and the unusually coloured hair


With Howard Jacobson being the first Man Booker winner to bring out a book responding to the new American politics (Pussy, a novella that will be published in April), Salman Rushdie comes in hot pursuit. When Rushdie won the Man Booker way back when, in 1981 with Midnight's Children, he was a Brit. Much choppy water has passed under the bridge since then and he is now an American citizen living in New York City. And as such he voted – for Hillary Clinton – in the election. In his fiction Rushdie prefers the past to the present but his new book, The Golden House, due in September, is a contemporary work looking at the effect of the Obama years on modern American life. The novel's span also takes in a ‘media-savvy villain with unusually coloured hair’. Rushdie's preferred literary realm is myth so one can only hope that for this book he keeps it real.

The current Man Booker winner, Paul Beatty, is another with New York connections. Although he doesn't live there – indeed since he is permanently in demand around the world to talk about The Sellout it would be hard to say that he lives anywhere – his novel is one of the five finalists for an intriguing new Big Apple initiative. ‘One Book, One New York’ is a scheme run by the city's libraries to bring book-loving New Yorkers together to read the same book at the same time. Readers can vote for their preferred book at kiosks dotted around New York's subway network – not a system that is likely to catch on with the Man Booker prizes.

Back in 1997, Mick Jackson was shortlisted for his poignant and quirky novel The Underground Man, which told the story of an eccentric Victorian aristocrat based on the real-life 5th Duke of Portland. The Duke was a man bewildered by the modern age who retreated to his estate and kept his curiosity satisfied and the world at bay by digging a maze of tunnels under his grounds. What he was looking for underground no one knew but, needless to say, things didn't end well. A stage adaptation of Jackson's book by Mick Wood has recently finished its run in Nottingham (near the novel's actual setting) and is now heading for Kendal in Cumbria, for one night only, as they say in the thesping trade.

Alan Hollinghurst, Man Booker winner in 2004 with The Line of Beauty, remains a frustrated poet. He recently confessed, with a heavy heart, to the loss of his muse: ‘I would love to write poetry, but it just deserted me . . . my poetry writing faculty just sort of ceased up, sadly. It would be very nice to just to be able to sit down one afternoon and write a poem.’ He keeps a tenuous hold on verse in another way: ‘If I ever have to give a speech, which I hate doing, I tend to write it in rhyming verse.’ Those who have heard him speak, however, can testify that it comes out as elegant blank verse. In the same interview Hollinghurst put his finger on the literary novelist's dilemma. The great struggle of his work from the start was how to ‘write novels that were more like life and less like novels’.