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October 16, 2013

Man Booker Prize 2013: Youngest star Eleanor Catton joins Booker luminaries

Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, second left, at a photocall in London last weekend with fellow shortlisted authors, from left, Jhumpa Lahiri, Colm Tóibín, NoViolet Bulawayo and Ruth Ozeki

Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, second left, at a photocall in London last weekend with fellow shortlisted authors, from left, Jhumpa Lahiri, Colm Tóibín, NoViolet Bulawayo and Ruth Ozeki

Eleanor Catton wins at the age of 28 with 832-page novel of ‘astonishing maturity’


Eleanor Catton has become the youngest writer to win the Man Booker Prize, with the longest novel to triumph in the award.

Catton, 28, beat competition from Colm Tóibín, NoViolet Bulawayo, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ruth Ozeki and the favourite, Jim Crace, to be awarded the £50,000 prize by the Duchess of Cornwall at a ceremony in Guildhall in London.

The author began The Luminaries, her second novel, aged 25, and has eclipsed the previous youngest recipient of the award, Ben Okri, who won aged 32 in 1991.


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September 11, 2013

Man Booker Shortlist 2013

Newsletter Img When Robert Macfarlane, the chair of this year’s Man Booker Prize judges, announced the longlist he called it the most diverse in recent memory. He was right, and the same is still true of the shortlist he and his peers have just selected. The 151 novels they started with represented a tour d’horizon of contemporary fiction, a grand vista that encompassed everything from the epic to the miniaturist. The longlist distilled the numbers but kept the flavour and now the shortlist has intensified it further.
The six books on the list could not be more diverse. There are examples from novelists from New Zealand, England, Canada, Ireland and Zimbabwe – each with its own highly distinctive taste. They range in size from the 832 pages of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries to the 104-page The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín. The times represented stretch from the biblical Middle East (Tóibín) to contemporary Zimbabwe (NoViolet Bulawayo) by way of 19th-century New Zealand (Catton), 1960s India (Jumpha Lahiri), 18th-century rural England (Crace) and modern Tokyo (Ruth Ozeki).

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July 31, 2013

Mixed response to Man Booker longlist


booker-longlist-2013-smaller-pic  By Joshua Farrington

The newly released Man Booker Prize longlist has been praised by the media for its diversity, but criticised for missing several big names and including multiple titles that have yet to be published.

The Guardian praised the judges, and said: “This is a jury not afraid to be experimental.”

It commended the scope of the longlist and said: “The longlist casts a wide net in terms of both geography and time, ranging from the slimmest of novels—Colm Tóibín’s stark, surprising The Testament of Mary conjures the gospel according to Jesus’s mother in a mere 100-odd pages—to vast doorstops, playful with genre and form.”

The Daily Mail focused on authors it saw as being “snubbed” from the Booker list, describing the nominated authors as “obscure . . . mostly unknown”. It said: “This year’s longlist is notable for the number of big-name authors who have been overlooked, including J M Coetzee, Roddy Doyle and Margaret Atwood. Five of the books have yet to be published.”

The Daily Mail also quoted Alex Donohue of bookmaker Ladbrokes, which has appointed Jim Crace as the current favourite at 9/2.

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November 3, 2012

Colm Tóibín’s Favorite Novels About Religious Figures

Irish writer Colm Tóibín has earned nearly every moniker a man of letters can hold: novelist, poet, playwright, journalist, critic, essayist, and even travel writer. His fiction includes the novels Brooklyn and The Master, and his nonfiction ranges from essays on Henry James to musings on the families of writers in New Ways to Kill Your Mother. Tóibín’s latest project covers hallowed ground, where few are brave enough to tread. His novella, The Testament of Mary, is told from the perspective of Jesus’s mother. Elderly and near the end of her life, she reflects on her son’s legacy at the dawn of Christianity. Tóibín shares with Goodreads his top five novels that use fiction to explore the lives of spiritual icons.

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October 29, 2012

Colm Tóibín: you have to be a terrible monster to write

With a mind as formidable as his features, Colm Tóibín is now firmly a part of Ireland’s literary landscape. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

By Nigel Farndale

‘Listen,” Colm Tóibín says. I listen, though there is nothing to hear. “And it gets even quieter at night,” he adds, “because nearly all the properties around here are used as offices.” We are standing in the upstairs study of his four-storey Georgian house in Dublin, the place where he does his writing in a hard-backed rattan chair, at night.

The 57-year-old author shows me a work-in-progress on his desk, written in longhand in a notebook. “I have to write a first draft with a fountain pen before I type it up as a second,” he explains. “John Lanchester and Philip Hensher do the same. I bumped into them the other night and we were all doing our pen talk.”

Tóibín talks in a strong but ponderous voice — which is, by the way, as Irish as whiskey with an “e”. The deliberation, he reckons, may be a compensation for a childhood stammer. He avoids starting sentences with hard consonants. In conversation with him you have to hold your nerve and not rush to fill the long silences, as he is probably half way through a thought.

“I was waiting to get money out of a machine last night,” he tells me, “and there were these two lads who were slightly drunk messing about in front of me in the queue. The cheekier one looked at me and said: ‘So you’re busy at the moment?’ I must have been looking quite severe and was about to say ‘Yes I am, and I want to get home’ when he added ‘with the writing?’ and I had to smile. I took out my ink pen, held it up and went ‘Yeah’.”

His manner, if not his appearance, is friendly and humorous. It’s his formidable bald head that makes him look, as he puts it “severe”. That and his dark clumps of eyebrow and the deep, ventriloquist’s dummy creases that frame his mouth. Given that he describes things for a living, I ask him how he would describe himself. “I have no sense of it at all. None. None.”

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August 23, 2012

‘New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families’ by Colm Tóibín

  By Sandy Leonard

“A happy childhood,” Colm Tóibín tells us, “may make good citizens, but it is not a help for those of us facing a blank page.” Withholding or meddlesome fathers, control-freak mothers, siblings whose sexual hijinks would make polite society shudder—these are the stimuli that fill blank pages with art. And Tóibín in New Ways to Kill Your Mother (Scribner) mines this potent field of twisted and troublesome literary families for all it’s worth.

William Butler Yeats and his competitive father become embroiled in undignified pissing matches. Thomas Mann, when eyeing his own children, blurs the dangerous line between father and lover. John Millington Synge and his mother engage in a life-long tug-of-war that pits his rebellious, expansive nature against her dogmatic, religious fervor and unrelenting dullness. The essays in this extraordinary collection are always illuminating and a delight to read no matter how familiar you are with the authors or the works being dissected.

Tóibín is a great wit, quick with the aphorism, the smart remark that can leaven even the weightiest of literary topics.

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February 7, 2012

How to Be an Indie Bookseller’s Dream

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:12 am

Authors, would you bring this man candy? Hugh Grant in ‘Notting Hill.’

By Emma Straub

I’ve worked as a bookseller for almost three years, and in that time, I’ve witnessed a vast number of readings and book parties. The bookstore hosts up to six events a week, and I often stick around, even if I’m no longer on the clock. In my time at the bookstore, I’ve codified a simple list (in my head, until this very moment) of ways in which certain authors get gold stars, and others go down in (sorry, sorry) flames. Follow these simple rules, and you’ll be an indie bookstore darling before you know it!

The beginning is simple: the people who work at the bookstore the night of your event also sell books all day long, which means they are very, very powerful people. If you are rude to them, guess what?! Your book will not be the first one they try to handsell to customers. If you are nice to them, they will always think of you fondly, and your book is more likely to be one they recommend. This is not bribery, mind you, it is basic human decency. (Note: some authors do bring candy, which is maybe bribery, but also thoughtful and delicious. I am prone to such bribery myself, and would encourage the trait in others.) The morning after your event, when everyone’s names are still fresh in your mind, write a thank you note to the bookstore. This should be obvious, but many authors seem to have been raised in barns.

Now, about the reading itself. I can count the times on one hand—no, make that one finger, and name it Colm Toibin—where an author has read for forty minutes and no one has fallen asleep.

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September 19, 2011

O’Brien scoops Frank O’Connor award

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19.09.11 | Charlotte Williams

The world’s richest short story prize, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, has been awarded to an Irish author for the first time, with Edna O’Brien winning for her collection Saints and Sinners (Faber).

The 2011 jury announced its decision last night (18th September) awarding €35,000 to O’Brien after “much deliberation”. Other authors on the shortlist included Yiyun Li, Alexander MacLeod, Suzanne Rivecca, Valerie Trueblood and Colm Toibin.

The judges said O’Brien’s stories “demonstrate a lustful comfort in the face of the human condition, ranging from days in the last century to the immediate present”. more

August 28, 2011

Teju Cole’s top 10 novels of solitude

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The author picks out the best of literature’s lonely odysseys, from Colm Tóibín’s The Master to Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day.

“It all began with Crusoe. But it intensified in our time: this is the age of loneliness. The canonical texts are Notes from the Underground, Hunger, L’Etranger, and The Catcher in the Rye. Other presiding spirits are those of Kafka and Beckett. But in my own reading, I’m drawn not only to extreme isolation but to apparently well-integrated individuals who, nevertheless, spend most of their time in their own thoughts. Many of these novels are narrated in the first person, but I hadn’t noticed before how many of them are by anonymous narrators, unaccompanied even by their names. Julius, in Open City, is named, but what he shares with all the protagonists below is a shifting, and shifty, relationship with his author. In writing him, I invented situations, attitudes, beliefs and actions, but a great deal of his solitude came out of mine.”

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August 4, 2011

Why Do We Care About Literary Awards?

By Mark O’Connell

Getting worked up about the fact that really interesting, innovative fiction so often gets ignored by awards judges is, when you think about it, a little bit absurd.

Earlier in the week, the longlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize was announced, and the Anglophone news media dutifully sat up straight and took notice. In September the shortlist will be announced, and the news media will sit up even straighter and take even more notice and, for a month or so, fiction — six works of fiction published in the last year, to be exact — will be a more prevalent topic of discussion in the press and online. Already, the customary kvetching about unjustly overlooked books is well underway. In Ireland, where I’m from, the number of our long- and shortlisted compatriots is usually seen as a reliable indicator of the award’s continued relevance. If William Trevor or Anne Enright or Colm Tóibín makes the grade, there is hope yet for the Booker; if not, it is doomed to subside more or less irrevocably into irrelevance. As I write this, The Irish Times already seems to be cracking its knuckles and asking its readership to hold its jacket as it prepares to duke it out over the coming outrage of the shortlist. A report on the longlist points out that Sebastian Barry is “the lone Irishman alongside eight British subjects and three Canadians” (note the subtly politicizing insistence on stressing the British authors’ relationship to their head of state). The article then moves on to discuss the matter of neglected books, drawing the battle lines in historically explicit (and absurd) terms, informing us that “surprise omissions this year amount to a literary Somme.”

You’ll find similar stuff in most of the major newspapers, at least in Britain and Ireland, where the Booker has the highest level of what I think is referred to, by people who use words like “traction,” as “traction.” This is all pretty harmless stuff, of course — most of us would like the writers we think important to be recognized — and it gets people talking about books, buying them, and maybe even reading them, all of which are good things. But every time there is an announcement about a major literary award, there is always this low tumult of grumbling about all the great writers the judges have “snubbed” (this is usually the verb of choice when it comes to describing the failures of those charged with awarding prizes to books). And I have to admit to being as guilty of this as the next guy, and probably more so. more

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