Last night B and I attended the Man Booker Prize shortlist readings at the Royal Festival Hall. It was very enjoyable. The standout authors for me were Will Self and Hilary Mantel.
I felt a bit sorry for first-time author Alison Moore who followed Mantel, but she did a good job and didn’t appear to be quaking in her boots (as I would have been). Her material seemed a bit thin in comparison to Bring up the Bodies, but so do most novels.
All of the shortlisted writers have undeniable, enviable talent. These are the people we should be inspired by in today’s culture. Forget your Lady Gagas, your Justin Biebers, your Simon Cowells. Hilary Mantel looks like a lady you’d see on the bus, Will Self a secondary school maths teacher, but I’d dearly love to possess an ounce of their writing skill.
Will Self was hilarious too. When asked for his thoughts on the perceived ‘difficulty’ presented to readers by the style and complexity of Umbrella, he said ‘A lot of people seem to have real difficulty with… difficulty. We’re in danger of becoming a world of pornographic, button-pushing entertainers.’ He added ‘The powers that be want us to be facilely entertained.’ I’m guessing he’s not a big fan of the X Factor.
I could well be cursing him once I start reading Umbrella, but he has a point. I struggled to get into The Book of Dave but now it’s one of my favourite novels. I just wish I’d discovered the glossary before I got to the end of the book.
We didn’t stay for the audience questions at the end, I find them tedious. I don’t think you stand much chance of asking anything interesting that the author hasn’t heard a thousand times before, so it’s best to keep your thoughts to yourself.
As for my own reading, I’ve finished Howard Jacobson’s Zoo Time and started A Street Cat Named Bob, which is about as light as you can get without descending into chick lit. I still feel it’s on the right side of shameful. It’s about a man and his cat, what’s wrong with that?
B and I have a small tea-related wager on the winner of the Booker Prize, to be announced tonight. My leaves are on Mr Self. Judging from the results of our previous bets, this means Hilary Mantel is sure to walk away with it. I could easily end up making the tea for a week again, or even 2 weeks, as we have the same bet on the outcome of tonight’s Great British Bake Off finale. Go Brendan!
I’m facilely entertained and proud.