The Man Booker Prize

I have not followed the Man Booker prize before, or any literature prize prior to my enjoyment of reading this year’s Women’s Prize for fiction. As with the Woman’s Prize I am going to try and read the shortlist before the winner is announced in October. The short list won’t be announced till September, so right now I am playing guesswork. I find it disappointed that there are only three female authors on the longlist, and only two woman on the all white judging panel. I could reflect on this further, however, Naomi sums my feelings perfectly. Especially in regards to the argument put forward that this is about great fiction, not positive discrimination.  Which, when reading Naomi’s post, you can’t help but question.

Frustrations aside, I am excited to read quite a few of the books on the longlist, which is as follows:

  1. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
  2. The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt
  3. How to be Both, Ali Smith
  4. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris
  5. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan
  6. J, Howard Jacobson
  7. The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth
  8. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
  9. The Lives of Others, Neel Mukherjee
  10. Us, David Nicholls
  11. The Dog, Joseph O’Neill
  12. Orfeo, Richard Powers
  13. History of the Rain, Niall Williams

I was surprised by the addition of David Nicholls, as a big fan of One Day I am excited to read it. First on my to-read list are The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt, History of the Rain by Niall Williams, and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. For no other reason that they interested me, and they are published. I’m not sure I can sit patiently and wait till September for either Nicholls book or The Bone Clock by David Mitchell. With their nominations I wonder their publication dates will be pulled forward.

 What are your thoughts on the Man Booker prize?


Poetry: Broken Breath by Haydar Ergülen

The latest addition of Modern Poetry in Translation, The Constellation, arrived a few weeks ago. In celebration of some fantastic translated poems I give you this to enjoy:

Broken Breath by Haydar Ergülen (translated by Derick Mattern)

This my heart was: I snatched it from
a broken verb in the new Turkish
thoughts run to wanderlust like a fan spinning in place
don’t rush, my heart, there’s time enough

this my heart was: I plunged into the lament
of a child outgrowing the back garden
yesterday’s wickedness comes to light, addled with lust
I cheated on myself for your sake

this my heart was: in an old story
I stole a weary angel’s transgression
a sin so obvious that punishment’s pointless
I was written as fire to the ashes of words

this my heart was: when I arrived there
a house of burning reeds was above me still
that lie made it to the water and the physician is to blame
don’t fall behind, my heart, I’ve had enough of you

You can follow Modern Poetry in Translation on Twitter, they do a lot of events.


Review: The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter

Having not read Carter since my University days I knew I would enjoy The Magic Toyshop, but I did not think I would find it easy to read. Heroes and Villains was on my University course and although I read it in a day (the seminar was the next day) I did struggle to get through the text.

The Magic Toyshop tracks the transition of Melanie, with her siblings, from rural innocence to city life. After their parents die they are sent to live with their Uncle Philip at his toyshop. Philip lives with his mute wife Margaret, and her brothers Finn and Frances. Philip is controlling, intolerant and obsessed with his creations – not only in the toyshop, but in his puppet theatre. Melanie spends the novel adjusting to her new life, her new family and navigating the caustic Philip.

‘She embarked on a tranced voyage, exploring the whole of herself, clambering her own mountain ranges, penetrating the moist richness of her secret valleys, a physiological Cortez, da Gama or Mungo Park.’

Carter unabashedly tackles subjects in literature in need of addressing.  As Yasmin said in her review of the bookCarter’s work is her fearlessness to approach very taboo subjects. The Magic Toyshop alone touches on teenage sexual awakening, rape and incest in a way that, despite being draped in surrealism, is incredibly real and direct.’ We are introduced to Melanie as she explores her body. It has suddenly stopped being something childish and is instead a vessel for pleasure and female sexuality. A few pages later Melanie dresses in her mothers wedding gown and dances in the moon light in expression of her new found desire. Melanie’s parents die the day after, she perceives their deaths as punishment for this reckless abandon. Perhaps an expression of how women are told to restrain their sexuality, as it is dangerous and evil. Melanie becomes eve, shunted from her life in the idyllic countryside to the stark reality of London poverty.

Uncle Philip is the embodiment of social hegemony, representing the patriarchy and its attitude to women. I found Uncle Philip demonstrative of the patriarchy’s damaging effect on both women and men. His wife Margaret becomes mute from the moment they are married, reduced to an object which cleans, cooks and obeys. The longer the marriages progresses the thinner and frailer she becomes, wasting under Philips large (literally and figuratively) presence. Philips spreads his control over to her brothers Frances and Finn. Each are beaten down by his perception of masculinity and it’s restrictions. Finn and Frances do not live up to his high expectations, and are punished physically and mentally for this. Finn especially, who is assistant to the ever punishing Philip.

The ending – which I will try not to spoil – suggests regeneration. However, Melanie is completely removed from what she has known, both before and during life at the Toyshop.

The Magic Toyshop was not an ‘unputdownable’ book, yet, I am still pondering it now. You may not storm through it, but you will be thinking about it endlessly afterwards. An indication that this book informs as much as it entertains.

Have you read The Magic Toyshop? How did you find it?


a chronicle of literary addiction