Monday 19 March 2018

Why literary revenge is a tale in itself

Edward St Aubyn
Edward St Aubyn

John Boland

English author Edward St Aubyn, much praised for his sardonic novels about dysfunctional upper-class family life, featured on the 2006 Man Booker prize shortlist for Mother's Milk. The book lost out to Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss and none of his other novels have even been longlisted for the award.

Perhaps that explains why the principal characters in his new comic novel, Lost for Words, are the judges of a prestigious literary award called the Elysian prize. Certainly there are those on the London literary scene who are wondering if this is St Aubyn's revenge and who are busy trying to determine which real-life Man Booker judges are being skewered.

Howard Jacobson's last novel, Zoo Time, also led to such speculation about the identities of lampooned characters, though at least Jacobson had managed to win the Man Booker in 2010 with The Finkler Question – even if it was a victory that seemed to surprise Jacobson as much as it did many readers.


Meanwhile, odds are being taken on the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange prize), with Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch the bookie's favourite at 2/1. Irish readers, though, may wish to have a flutter on either Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing or Audrey Magee's The Undertaking – both of which have been shortlisted. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in the Royal Festival Hall on June 4.

Further afield, Haruki Murakami is being tipped to win this year's Nobel prize for literature, with odds at 6/1, though you'd wonder on what basis given that a Ladbrokes contact quoted in the Times Literary Supplement conceded that "our tipsters have no literary background – their real skill is in gauging what other people are saying".

And while bookies "value the opinions" of highbrow newspapers and literary magazines, "Twitter is now the essential source because it allows us to take note of a wide variety of opinions".

Where would we be without Twitter?

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