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Posts Tagged ‘Man Booker Prize’

Howard Jacobson (photo by Jenny Jacobson)

Just last weekend, the British novelist Howard Jacobson was lamenting that he wasn’t being taken seriously.  “There is a fear of comedy in the novel today,” he wrote the Guardian Saturday Review. “When did you last see the word ‘funny’ on the jacket of a serious novel?”

Well, perhaps we’ll see it more often.  It’s just been announced that Jacobson is the winner of this year’s £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Finkler Question.

It’s the story of three old school friends who grapple with love, loss, and what it means to be Jewish in Britain — themes that are  staples of Jacobson’s work. The Guardian calls the novel “laugh-out-loud exploration of Jewishness” and notes that it’s the first “unashamedly comic novel” to win in the 42-year history of the prize.

We’ve been lucky to have Jacobson on the show twice — he’s a fantastic talker, thoughtful and seriously funny too.  In 2007, he read from Kalooki Nights (which was previously longlisted for the Booker Prize). And for our American Icons episode all about Superman, we asked Jacobson for his take on the caped crusader’s Jewish origins.  Among his observations: “Krypton is like an ideal Jewish suburb.  All the men are highly scientific and cerebral.  An all the women are good-looking and motherly, but care mainly about whether their boys do well at school.”

You can listen to the full program here:

– Jenny Lawton

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I had the good fortune to hear the outstanding Irish writers John Banville and Colum McCann a few days ago, when they did a reading together at New York’s 92nd Street Y. Banville won the Man Booker prize in 2005 for The Sea and McCann won last year’s National Book Award for Let The Great World Spin.

(John Banville and Colum McCann)

Both are a pleasure to listen to, certainly for their lilting Irish accents and their humor, but not only for that. I closed my eyes as each was reading and heard poetry in their prose. What is it about the Irish? I mused, thinking back to my Irish great-grandmother, who could make a request for tea sound like a sonnet.

During the Q&A I got an answer. “English doesn’t feel like our first language,” said Banville of Irish writers. “That’s fruitful for us because we examine every word. We become drunk with language.”

That’s as good an explanation as I’ve heard. Even if both men grew up speaking English, their culture was steeped in Irish language, and they were always straddling both worlds.

I’ve kept Banville’s comment with me since then, as I try to listen to the English around me as though it weren’t my first language. It’s the difference between unthinkingly slugging down a glass of water, and really noticing the curve of the glass it’s in, the way the light hits it, and its temperature on my tongue. Here’s to really noticing, and to getting drunk on language.

– Cary Barbor

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Banville talks about his compulsion to read and write books:

[YOUTUBE=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2pOCJsUv-Q]

McCann discusses getting the experience he needed to write good stories:

[YOUTUBE= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb-uO1qXeLs%5D

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