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An earful of the Man Booker

An earful of the Man Booker


The Man Booker Prize is traditionally a feast for the eyes and the mind. Now, ever mindful of the need to provide aficionados with a regular Man Booker fix, it is titillating another sense too – the ears.

Friday saw the launch of the first of seven Man Booker Prize Podcasts which will run fortnightly up to the prize announcement on October 13. The magazine-style podcasts will be introduced by Joe Haddow, producer of the Radio 2 Book Club, who has also worked on Claudia Winkleman’s Arts Show and a variety of other literary broadcasts. Among the items in the first episode (the comedian Viv Groskop talking about last year's winning novel, Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and a discussion of the buzz book of the moment, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman) there is a conversation with the 2008 Man Booker judge Louise Doughty. In the midst of a wide-ranging chat she reveals that towards the end of reading the 120-plus submitted novels she and her fellow judges compared notes about the point in the process at which their respective spouse or partner 'cracked'. For her partner, it was when she greeted him on his return from work at the end of the day without looking up from the latest novel she was reading. Things were more severe for James Heneage's wife – she caught him reading a book as they were walking hand in hand along beach...

The first podcast is now available to download free from iTunes and on SoundCloud.

Richard Flanagan was the subject of the most recent BBC Imagine programme. The presenter, Alan Yentob, was forced to visit the author in Tasmania (it's a tough job but someone's...) for the hour-long profile. During their conversations about Flanagan's writing career, the places that have inspired him and his Man Booker win, the novelist revealed, startlingly, 'I’m not a very interesting person. I’m the least interesting person I know.' He must know some spectacularly interesting people in that case.

Marina Warner, chair of this year's Man Booker International Prize judges, made a couple of startling admissions of her own in a recent interview: as a child, she revealed, “I desperately wanted to be a saint” and also, to boot, a boy: “I wanted to be Julian in Enid Blyton's Famous Five. He was the oldest, tall, strong, caring, intelligent and protective – and he led them.” Despite remaining a woman she displayed some of those attributes on the panel that chose László Krasznahorkai as the winner. It would be presumptuous though to speculate how far she has reached on the road to sainthood.

With the Man Booker longlist announcement only two days away, Colm Tóibín’s (eligible) novel Nora Webster has just been awarded the Hawthornden Prize. Previous winners of the venerable prize include such Man Booker big guns as V.S. Naipaul and William Trevor. Tóibín will be hoping that Wednesday (29th) sees him on the Man Booker longlist for the fifth time.