I can never quite make up my mind about how best to go about reading a collection of work by different authors: sequentially or randomly? Individually, with a gap between each, or as one continuous experience? If editor Sigrid Rausing had a particular leitmotif in mind when compiling Granta 135 New Irish Writing (in her introduction she writes of identified themes such as the relationship between place and self, and a sense of displacement) it didn’t seem critical. So I played lucky dip, moving backwards and forwards as the fancy took me.
The book gathers together 14 writers ranging from established authors like Colm Tóibín, Roddy Doyle and Emma Donoghue to “emerging writers” although even these seem to have already garnered an impressive list of official accolades. It just shows the weight of Irish writing talent in that the collection is notable for who isn’t included: Anne Enright whose The Green Road was Ireland’s
Sometimes, the list of entrants who don’t make make it onto the shortlist for a literary prize can be as interesting as those who do. The prestigious Folio Prize, which is open to books of any genre from anywhere in the world, written in the english language and published in England, this week named its final eight, and there were some surprising omissions. First the shortlist which includes some exciting and original works:
For the first time I kept a list of the books I read during past year and looking back over the months, 2013 was a rich year for literary pleasure. In total I read 76 books. That averaged out at about six books a month I only managed three in June yet nine in May (that’s the luxury of holidays). Apart from reading all the books on the Booker Prize shortlist there was no particular rhyme or reason to my selections. Sometimes I would just see a book in a book shop, other times it was the book selected by my book club. Sometimes it was a review or a news item in a newspaper or magazine or because an author was appearing at a literary festival I was attending (Dublin, Hay-on-Wye in England and Byron Bay in Australia).
Despite all that, I when I read other people’s end-of-year Best Of book lists I was stunned at the number I had not even heard of let alone all those wonderful authors whose books are sitting on my bedside table or in my e-reader but which I haven’t got around to reading yet. I did live up to the promise I made myself to read more collections of short stories and was richly rewarded. I read a pathetically small number of non-fiction which I hope to remedy in 2014. There were one or two which, if it were not for the “I’ve started so I’ll finish” rule, would have immediately been relegated to the bottom of the book pile but thus is the delicious serendipity of reading.
So, before the clock ticks over to a new day and new year, here is my top ten for 2013
Jim Crace’s Harvest has firmed as Bookie’s favourite to take the Booker Prize announced later today and having now completed all six finalists I’m placing my $5 on him as well. If I was going for a Trifecta ( if indeed I was completely sure what a Trifecta actually was) I’d…
At 104 pages, The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, seems too slight to do justice to the enormity of its subject. Yet emotion vibrates from the pages with such intensity that the book’s impact lingers long after you have finished. Based on Toibin’s stage play, Testament, it reveals the tangle of emotions overwhelming Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, in the period leading up to and directly following her son’s death.
It peels away the religious dogma and leaves the anger, frustration and terrible loss of a loving mother who could not protect her son from a looming danger to which she had become increasingly alert. Compounding this is her shame that
Harvest, by early favourite Jim Crace tops the shortlist for the Booker Prize announced overnight in London. Also on the list are A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri and The Testament…
Women have dominated the Booker Prize long list taking out seven of the 13 slots. In an eclectic selection said by the judges to be the most diverse ever there was only a smattering of well-known authors. There was a fair international spread with four British authors, three Irish and representatives from Malaysia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, India and Canada. The full long list is: