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J.G. Farrell and the skinny latte

J.G. Farrell and the skinny latte

J.G. Farrell, winner of The Booker Prize in 1973 with The Siege of Krishnapur and of the Lost Man Booker Prize in 2010 with Troubles, died 40 years ago next month at the too-young age of 44. The novelist had decamped to the isolated Sheep’s Head Peninsula, West Cork and drowned when a storm wave washed him from the rock on which he was fishing. As well as tragedy though, there was comedy in his monkish seclusion. When a friend once visited from London he brought with him a large packet of Farrell’s favourite Colombian coffee beans – a treat that couldn’t be found in any of the few local shops. The man was pulled over at Cork airport by a customs officer who asked where he got the coffee beans. “London,” came the response. “I didn’t think they grew it there,” replied the customs man.

 

As with Dame Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, for Yann Martel merely conquering page and screen is not enough. A stage production of Life of Pi is now receiving rapturous notices (as the Guardian’s reviewer put it: “Everything about this production is amazing, extraordinary”), not least for putting a story largely set on the open sea on to the boards. Something else that is extraordinary is that the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, which is staging the production, is better known for hosting championship snooker rather than boys, tigers and boats. Whether the play will bob its way to the West End is yet to be seen though there are rumours that it will dock in an as yet unnamed theatre in 2020.

 

DBC Pierre, Man Booker Prize winner in 2003 with Vernon God Little, is not a straightforward man. His background is famously unknown and just as famously replete with mutterings of dark deeds and bad living. So perhaps is it not surprising that his writing method is more than a little odd: he designs the cover of the book before writing a single word. So the first version of Vernon God Little was based “on a photograph I took. I had a rough wooden Christian cross and slung a pair of old Nike trainers over it by the laces ‒ just that and the title. It was just about the martyrdom of youth. That beautiful innocence that I so loved as a kid has gone. So, that image was my expression of it.” This version didn’t make the cut and the book was published with the image of a plastic figure of a boy carrying an American flag. Since he is currently secreted on the sub-arctic Norwegian island of Svalbard to write his next novel there is a distinct possibility that his next dist-jacket will feature polar bears.