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Prize words for Atwood

Prize words for Atwood

Margaret Atwood, joint winner of this year’s Booker Prize, has had a rare taste of defeat, in her native Canada no less. She was longlisted but not shortlisted for the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for fiction. Nevertheless, she attended the prize ceremony and received a consolation award of sorts when the winner, Ian Williams (for Reproduction), singled her out in his acceptance speech. “You have no idea how special this is for me,” Williams told literary Canada’s great and good. “Margaret Atwood, who is sitting right over there, was the first book I bought with my own money. I bought that because I had good public school teachers.” One suspects the modest Atwood, after a long career of accolades, found this heartfelt encomium more gratifying than many of them.

 

As if to point out to anyone who has spent the past year deep in the Amazonian jungle without phone signal, that Atwood has been in the news of late, she has also been named one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year 2019, picking up a lifetime achievement award. Paying no heed to Glamour’s stock-in-trade as a beauty and lifestyle magazine Atwood went off-message in her speech:  “I’m often asked what words of encouragement I might have for young women especially at this moment,” she said. “What’s encouraging to me is seeing how women come together – in journalism, to research and expose abuses; in business, to invent their own companies; in politics, to defend and to extend democracy; and in health and welfare, to help other women around the world.” However, Atwood wasn’t altogether immune to the occasion: she dressed up super-glam for an accompanying photo-shoot.

 

A more-than-honourable mention too to Marlon James. Four years after he won the then Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings, James’s star remains in the ascendant. On the occasion of International Men’s Day – yes, there is such a thing – he has just been named as one of the five most influential men of 2019, those chaps who act as “positive male role models and raise awareness of men’s issues”. He takes his place alongside a Harvard astronomer, a YouTuber, a charity chef, and an Indian-American Muslim comic. James was not singled out for any particular 2019 achievement but rather for writing his novel and, well, being Marlon James.

 

Sarah Hall, a double Man Booker Prize nominee, recently revealed an unexpected taste for left-field music. Her favourite listening, she says, is a Turkish psychedelic rock band called BaBa ZuLa. The band, who call themselves an “art group”, seem to model themselves on Roy Wood from the 1970s Birmingham band Wizzard (I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day). They produce, says Hall: “Sounds that seem recognisable and retro, and traditional Turkish instruments, are supercharged and given high-definition – the effect is strange, elating and brilliant. Listening while driving is definitely recommended, even if the fugue state means a lot of missed exits.” In the name of research, this column checked out some of the band’s music and, without wishing to be disrespectful to Sarah Hall, would advise that with a few of the more “vibrant” tracks you are most definitely not in charge of a powered vehicle while listening.

 

Perhaps the 1993 Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle has taken a leaf out of BaBa ZuLa’s book: he’s going on tour. The author of 12 novels, including Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha, and innumerable short fictions, screenplays and indeed ghost-writing (for the combative Irish footballer Roy Keane for example) has a 10-date tour of Britain and Ireland lined up for 2020. “Conversations with Roddy Doyle” will involve the author fielding questions from a variety of guest interviewers and the audiences. Nothing, it seems, will be off limits: “Over the years, what I've always enjoyed most about book events is the conversation, and the unpredictability of the questions,” Doyle says. “I recently saw a list of the work I've produced in the 33 years since The Commitments was published. It's a long list; there'll be plenty to talk about.” For your place in the mosh pit go here.

Margaret Atwood The 2019 Booker Prize joint winner
Margaret Atwood The 2019 Booker Prize joint winner