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Atwood Under Lock Down

Atwood Under Lock Down

Although Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize longlisted The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, is not due out for a couple of weeks yet – it is published on 10 September - this hasn’t stopped it from already topping Amazon’s bestseller list for. . . “Women’s studies”.  So keen are Atwood’s handlers to stop details of the book leaking out that her Canadian publishers, McClelland & Stewart, have restricted how files are shared both internally and with printers. Security protocols have been put in place around the printing and shipping of the book and how the publisher works with retailers. Inside M&S, “the book is being circulated on a ‘need-to-read’ basis”. It makes the Booker Prize judges’ comments about the “ferocious non-disclosure agreement” that allowed them to read it ahead of publication seem almost normal.

Margaret Atwood will be in London on publication day and she will be joined by the actress Lily James – known for an eclectic range of films encompassing, War and Peace, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and not forgetting Cinderella.  James will give readings with her on the Lyttelton stage at the National Theatre. The event will be streamed live to 1,300 cinemas, yes 1,300, worldwide.

Lucy Ellmann, Booker longlisted for Ducks, Newburyport, has some strong opinions about books. Asked recently which book was overrated she answered, bluntly, and without elaboration: “all crime fiction, I don’t care who it’s by”. And when asked which book she couldn’t finish?: “If I start, I finish. Unless I lose it. I lost Gone With the Wind when I was 13, which is just as well.” As for her favourite comfort read: “’Comfort read’ is a demeaning term, kind of like ‘cuppa’ or ‘undies’ or ‘jacket potato’. I’m comforted by good writing.” Fair enough.

It is still a little too early for the bookies to be publishing their Booker Prize odds – and the prize doesn’t condone gambling – but that doesn’t mean the tic-tac men are not keeping an eye on things. A hint as to the odds to come is offered by this snippet on the Nicer Odds website: “Many are anticipating that this year’s Booker Prize may be awarded to none other than Margaret Atwood for her sequel to Handmaid’s Tale however this is just anticipation.” So, expect Atwood to start with the shortest odds then. “There are many other well established authors in the race as well so the competition is bound to be tough,” yes, quite, you’d expect that. “The only thing we can say for now is may the best author win!”

Chigozie Obioma’s An Orchestra of Minorities has just been selected as one of the finalists for the 2019 Digital Book World awards (so has Robert Mueller’s report on the Trump administration’s alleged misdemeanours). It’s a big deal in the world of American publishing and a trip to Nashville, Tennessee for the winner announcement on 10-12 September might be a nice way for Obioma to occupy his mind. The announcement might take time: there are some 100 gongs to be handed out.

Author Margaret Atwood who has been longlisted for the Booker Prize with her novel 'The Testaments'