Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Booker prize, stars in everybody's eyes

So come on, admit it...how many of you watched Salman Rushdie on 'Shrinkwrapped'? I know Pamela Connolly can make the viewer cringe. I know it is lit lite and psyche lite and quite probably an insult to all of us but...I still watched it. I know, I know. Only a 'literature is just the work, not the personality' saint could resist and there has never been anything remotely saintly about me.

If Rushdie did the interview to improve his general image/profile/readership then I'm sure it did the trick. He came over as quite a sensible human being and all the stuff about how long it took him to get success as a writer (from 1968 to 1981) will all help him in the public eye (how we love a trier!). It may well reduce the air of 'smug, know-it-all' that seems to have attached itself to him over the years (not that smug, know-it-alls are necessarily all bad, but you know what I mean). He talked of being dumped by his last wife and of learning to live alone (how we love a loser in love) and of his stern, alcoholic father (how we love a victim) but despite the fact that I know how much he was probably using the interview to his own ends I still found him more interesting as a result (and anyway why shouldn't he use it - it was using him). It was quite interesting too on how little control writers have over their image and that's a subject we've touched on before here. I used to write book reviews and interview writers (as well as lots of other people) and I was often amazed how badly interviewees felt they had been treated in print and how other journalists, they said, had written barefaced lies about their houses and their looks and what they had said during the interview (why was I amazed? Well, I was a lot younger for a start). And I know I wasn't immune - on at least one occasion I disliked the person I interviewed so much that I couldn't keep the hatred out of my finished piece (the latter was so...negative the magazine wouldn't print it and that was a wise decision in retrospect!). I don't think I said anything inaccurate or dishonest...or I didn't think that at the time. At least on a TV interview like Connolly's show it is quite straightforward and grown-up and no one can dismiss you in a snidey aside about your living room wallpaper or your bookshelves or how you speak to your husband/wife/partner/cat. And no matter how cringemaking she can be, Connolly does at least seem to be fair to her interviewees (some might say too fair). I will be honest I am now probably much more likely to give Rushdie's books another go some time (to date I've never made it through any of them...not sure why...I never even tried 'The Satanic Verses'). If I do I will get them from the library though (or my Mum's bookcase - she is most definitely one of those readers who 'reads something once it has won the Booker'...or at least she used to be until some of the recent ruder ones - that Pierre bloke, for example, put her off well and truly).

For this week I am working my way through another Booker prize winner - Ben Okri's 'The Famished Road'. I'm about 100 pages in and not finding my feet in it yet...someone tell me it's worth the effort. I picked it up in the public library the other week...I do love to wander through a library and look at bookshelves (not just p.c.s!) and pick up books at random and think....'I've never read anything by him' and wander off with it into the sunset. I never much liked university libraries but no matter how many smelly people are sitting looking at the papers, no matter how loud some people are talking, no matter how limited the stock I still think that the public library is as close as I may get to heaven...in my lifetime.


Ken Armstrong said...

Tell you 'The Famished Road' is worth the effort?

... I'll get me coat!

I hear Midnight's Children by Rushdie is very good, 'haven't read it though.

That reminds me of the old Irish joke about the Irishman who heard there was a million dollar reward for killing Rushdie so he went out and shot his dog.

'May not travel very well, that one...

Rachel Fox said...

No I don't get it!
So you're saying 'The Famished Road' is...? Go on, spit it out!

Marion McCready said...

I'm afraid I've not read any Salman Rushdie, I don't even know what all the fuss is about The Satanic Verses.

I loved my uni library! Maybe it depends what dept you studied in, I loved the politics library best though I spent most of my time studying in the nice, warm common room with with endless cups of machine coffee - aah those were the days!

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, I think if I went back to my uni libraries I would like them more now. At the time...I was too distracted and maybe quite literally spoilt for choice. All I remember is sloane rangers flicking their hair in the faculty library (modern languages...and it was the 1980s and they really were from Sloane Square...or thereabouts...and all they talked about was skiing..loudly), people working much harder than me in the uni library and people snoring loudly in the college library (sleeping off hangovers usually). I probably should have gone and got a job and not gone to uni at all...I really wasn't in the mood for it then...might like it all more now!

Marion McCready said...

I went to uni as a 'mature' (lol) student at the age of 22 after working for two years in a salmon factory and it was utter bliss to while away the days reading and drinking coffee as opposed to standing in a freezing cold room slicing smoked salmon all day! I think if I'd gone straight from school I wouldn't have got as much out of it.

Rachel Fox said...

Very wise and totally the best way to do it.
I on the other hand, went to uni after a year in Madrid - beautiful city, gorgeous latin men (sorry guys, I was 19 and they were gorgeous...I'm sure you all are too), cheap drink, late nights, cheap living, only had to work a few hours a week teaching English to get by. So after that a uni in East Anglia full of English toffs with no decent nightlife...it was crap. It wasn't the libraries' fault!

Jim Murdoch said...

Sorry, it conflicted with Numb3rs and I couldn't watch the repeat of Numb3rs because it conflicts with House and House isn't repeated and my wife would kill me if I tried to persuade her to miss an episode. Besides I've never been able to develop enough interest in the guy to even glance at his books.

As for Okri, I've only read Astonishing the Gods which was okay but I wouldn't rush to read another book by him.

But if you love a lover in love then you'll love the hero in my book Living with the Truth… Sorry, I'm in promotion mode. Just ignore me. I'll calm down eventually. Or crawl into a hole or something.

Rachel Fox said...

Did you mean a loser in love?
I don't even know what 'numb3rs' is...and I can't get into 'House'. Even my beloved (who does like a lot of the US mega series) has given up on 'House'.

Jim Murdoch said...

Most certainly. There's a love story at the centre of the book though it's not properly resolved till the end of the second book once I got talked into writing one. Even sad gits like Jonathan and Krapp get to fall in love.

And you'll find out more than you want to know about Numb3rs here.

Ken Armstrong said...

You can't get into house?

Gimme a leg up, I'll get in that little window and open the front door for ya.

No I won't steal anything!

The Famished Road is tough going. An uphill famished road.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes I nearly gave up on the book earlier this week then I told myself not to be such a wimp! It seemed a bit 'and then he did this and then he did that and then another ridiculous spirit character turned up and then another and then another' for while...but I am getting a little more interested in it now.

Lots of other distractions though this week - just went to see Paul Weller in Dundee tonight (pretty good...even from row Z!) and watched 'Blood Diamond' at home last night which was much better than I expected. It had its Hollywood moments but it was impressive in lots of ways all the same.

McGuire said...

Ya,the is fucking good, particularly, the last verse.

Stark in its truth.


Rachel Fox said...

I think you may have put this on the wrong post McGuire! Are you drunk?