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Novelists, hot or not?

Novelists, hot or not?

With the Man Booker Prize 2016 longlist almost upon us, the Telegraph, a newspaper with a highly developed fondness for lists, could have waited a few days before coming up with its suggestions for ‘The 10 hottest summer beach reads of 2016’. Nevertheless, a couple of Man Booker novelists are featured and will, no doubt, be delighted to know they are officially ‘hot’. Deborah Levy, a shortlistee in 2012, is there with Hot Milk (a scorching title which does in fact feature a girl in a bikini on the cover), and so is Graham Swift, Man Booker Prize winner in 1996, with Mothering Sunday (his cover has a Modigliani nude, it must be sweltering). For the Man Booker Prize 2016 judges’ version of what is hot – or simply best – there is not long to wait. The Man Booker dozen, a longlist of usually 13 books, is announced next Wednesday, the 27th .

While Chika Unigwe settles into her duties as a judge on the 2017 Man Booker International Prize panel, she is herself being judged. Unigwe has just been named as one of the 11 authors (from 173) on the shortlist for the Nigeria Prize for Literature, worth $100,000. She is in contention with Night Dancer having previously won the prize in 2012 with On Black Sister's Street. One can only assume that the nerves, hopes and insecurities she will inevitably suffer as a shortlistee will make her the most sympathetic judge on the Man Booker International Prize panel.

All things judging seem very much in the air at the moment. The affably no-nonsense James Naughtie, chair of the 2009 Man Booker Prize judges, is one of those casting his gimlet eye over entries for the 2016 Sunday Times/Peters Fraser and Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award. During the course of its 22-year history the prize has honoured various writers (under the age of 35 and in every genre) who have gone on to become established literary names, among them the Man Booker Prize alumni Robert Macfarlane, Sarah Waters and Zadie Smith.

If you thought that winning the Man Booker Prize was some sort of guarantee of future financial success James Kelman, the fruity-vocab 1994 winner with How Late it Was, How Late has a different experience. In a recent interview he notes that it was his wife Marie, a social worker, who kept the family afloat while the income from his books only chipped in: ‘I’m used to my work disappearing without trace.’ Kelman’s Man Booker Prize winner was famously attacked in many places for its very liberal use of the F-word, he though remains unrepentant: ‘It’s not that you make a decision to challenge convention, because it’s really irrelevant to you as an artist. All you do is explore, and take it as far as you can.’

A tale of social inadequacy, Jewishness, girls, Cambridge and lust sublimated into table tennis might not seem an obvious choice for turning into a play but that is what has happened to the 2010 Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson’s novel The Mighty Walzer. The production is currently whiff-whaffing the boards at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, the city of Jacobson’s birth and the setting for the novel. The production runs until 30 July.