Booker 2015 - Beach Reads - Worthing

There's no better opportunity of breaking a blogging hiatus than with the announcement of one of literature's finest prize shortlists.

The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2015 was announced this morning:

Marlon James - A Brief History of Seven Killings (Jamaica)
Tom McCarthy - Satin Island (UK)
Chigozie Obioma - The Fisherman (Nigeria)
Sunjeev Sahota - The Year of the Runaways (UK)
Anne Tyler - A Spool of Blue Thread (US)
Hanya Yanagihara - A Little Life (US)

I've read not one. Nor have I read anything ever written by any of them. Anne Tyler has a long established reputation in the US, and has been championed often by Jonathan Franzen. Franzen's new book, Purity, is on my To Read list. I figure I might as well get it, as I have read The Corrections, and Freedom (and How to be Alone - non-fiction).

The winner will be announced on 13 October. 

I haven't read an awful lot recently. I have reviewed Nicola Wilson's (Reading University) new book on the representations of Home in British working-class fiction, which should be in the Times Literary Supplement in due course. Wilson's tome is a very welcome addition to the small list of such books that look at 'working-class fiction'. 

Whilst on holiday in Cyprus in August, I read The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop, author of the notable debut The Island, which I'm currently reading. The Sunrise didn't seem like my type of read - but Hislop writes clearly and has a very keen sense of pace and I had galloped through it in no time. The Sunrise is the name of a hotel in Famagusta, once dubbed the Cannes of Cyprus, but the 1974 civil war between supporters of 'enosis' (unification with Greece) and those against it, as well as the Turkish Cypriots, effectively closed it all down. And now Famagusta is little more than a ghost town, where nature has wrapped itself around the neglected buildings, many of which were the height of grandeur. Famagusta is next to capital, Nicosia. We visited Nicosia but gave up walking to 'no man's land', the stretch separating 'Turkish' Cyprus and 'Greek' Cyprus because it was so hot - ten degrees hotter than where we stay, in Paphos. Hislop is very good at revealing the issues at play and also portraying the friendships between both Turk and Greek Cypriots - whether they are co-workers or neighbours. And The Island, described as a 'beach read with a heart' again focusses on that part of the world, this time Crete and the former leper colony of Spinalonga, or Kaylydon. 

Aside from waiting for a review to appear in the TLS, I've also provided a piece on Mary Burns and Friedrich Engels for socialist e-magazine, Monthly Review. Monthly Review hasn't yet posted a piece on new Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, but the New Yorker has, weirdly declaring that he makes Bernie Sanders look like Ted Cruz! I love the New Yorker, one of the only monthly titles I now read, particularly for its short fiction, but it sometimes misreads. It recently referred to Dream Land, Banksy's dystopic theme park as representing the decline of the British seaside town! By the way, I now live in a British seaside town - ten miles from Brighton - Worthing. Yes, it's 90 minutes drive from London, and London will always be Home - but for now Worthing is where 'we' (me and the hubby) live. There seems to be next to no literary culture here - but that's a generalisation because I haven't yet sought out any culture beyond the cinema. The good thing, living just a road away from the sea front, is the salty sea air and the stronger than usual wind, and more hours of sunshine! It's not your usual seaside town - more of an ordererly yet growing coastal town - Brighton's reclusive cousin. It really is growing, though. House building on the outskirts is going on at a rate of knots, as is inward investment - and house prices. But whether it can retain its quiet charm remains to be seen.



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