l I I j


BOOKER PRIZE 2000 Margaret Atwood

The Blind Assassin (Blooriisbury £I6.99)

If there was a literary prize for perseverance then it should go to Margaret Atwood. Shortlisted three times for English language fiction's most prestigious award, Atwood has finally scooped the Booker Prize for The Blind Assassin.

It’s hardly a surprising result. As one representative of William Hill put it, those with any sense were ’backing the fillies' from the outset (presumably referring to Atwood and the other female nominee Trezza Azzopardi). But with the announcement only a week old, poor Atwood barely had time to bask in her success, before the sour grapes began being hurled in earnest.

Critics have argued that by selecting Atwood, this year's panel of judges avoided the embarrassment of leaving her in her bridesmaid's dress for a fourth year, awarding the veteran Canadian author for lifetime achievement at the expense of better books on the shortlist. Others reluctantly concede that The Blind Assassin, though flawed, was the best of an uninspired bunch.

So, does this year's Booker shortlist tell us anything about the current state of English language fiction? ’Boring’, ’pedestrian', ’old-fashioned’ and 'homogeneous’ are just some of the criticisms being levelled at this year's selection, rich accusations indeed from detractors who have previously scorned the Booker for being either too politically correct or too esoteric and inaccessible. It seems the Booker judging panel just can't win.

Admittedly, the thematic similarity between each of the books on the shortlist is pretty striking. For all their careering back and forth in time, all six of the novels are preoccupied with that time-honoured concern of the past and its effect on the present. The Blind Assassin, though set in 1999, contains a memoir that spans the last century. Though it would be interesting to see a novel with a contemporary setting, there’s been none of the usual snobbery extended to certain genres from this year’s judges. Michael Collins’ The Keepers Of Truth is a crime thriller, Kazuo lshiguro’s When We Were Orphans pastiches the golden age of detective fiction, while Atwood's novel dabbles in pulp science fiction. Also, the selection does include two first time novelists (to the credit of the judges, Trezza Azzopardi's The Hiding Place which traces the history of a Maltese family in Cardiff's Tiger Bay, was

Critics are gunning for this year's Booker winner

added to the original long list of 120 books at the last minute).

50, the Booker Prize remains as controversial as ever. But what of the winning book? Suffice to say it's several books within a book (a Booker archetype). It's the tale of two sisters, the elder of whom, Iris, recounts their life from old age. This memoir is incredibly moving and funny, Atwood capturing perfectly the wisdom and frustration of old age. Though her foray into sci-fi does nothing to illuminate the book’s themes, overall this is a compelling read and a weighty achievement. (Allan Radcliffe)

The Blind Assassin is out now

into their lives, Witnessing infidelity, , Virginity losing, rabbit murdering and \ the gaining of stretch marks ’A Bridget Jones for 30 40 year-olds,’ she says.

Eclair revels in the ’luxury’ of being an author 'lts really rather lovely swarming around saying “I’m writing a book, I've got a deal" but the reality of when the book hits the shelves is something else. It's a bit like someone

' criticising yOur rather stupid baby.’ a This ’stupid baby’ is by no means her first foray away from the comedy

'It's a bit like someone criticising your rather stupid baby'

stages," she has written Oh Baby Street, a series for Radio 4 and has acted, most recently as the mum of Al

COMIC FICTION Jenny Eclair Camberwell Beauty (Little, Brown £10)

Why do so many people balk at reading a novel written by a stand-up

comedian7 The very fact that comedians spend their lives constructing comic narratives for a living means that writing extended narratives should be second nature

108 THE lIST ‘6 —3C ".‘C‘. 2CC'Q

’Exactly' I'm really glad yOu said that,’ exclaims Jenny Eclair

The former Perrier Auard v; nner can be added to that bulging list of comics turned novelists Subtitled ’a novel about life, love and shagging the plumber’, Eclair's debut book, by her own confession, is hardly highbrov. Stuff.

It’s an unpretentious comic tale of tv.o women, Anna and Jo, as we delve

Murray's pub landlord, in the Sky TV series.

Like Eclair’s stand-up, Camber-well Beauty is acerbic and vulgar but flurd and incredibly easy to absorb. ’l’d love to do another, but it depends if someone lets me,’ she concludes Something that, on reflection, is not beyond a joke. (Mark Robertson)

ll Camberwe/l Beauty IS published on Thu 76 Nov. See Boo/c Events


First writes

Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Simon Crump. Who he? Sirriori c'iuri‘p mas born in Le=c esteisli.re and studied philosophy at St‘ettielcl Unisersih Settuig tip borne ri‘ Stee‘ C 'tv, Citirnp beca'iie an ‘T‘Tt‘ll‘tiiicir'ttllli, t‘\l‘rll)lit‘(l artist and lectu'ecf in fine art and photog'aphv at tarious tiltl‘u’i'Srilt‘S He began vvritrrig afte' ten years of l.‘.'(\.’i\lll(i on rnaci gargantuan photographic projects that began to overrulielrn him His stories have a;_)pear'eci 5.“. a number of anthologies and riiaga.’:nes

His debut It's called 7i, [his B/ac kout and it is about as bonkers and darklv comic as they come

Basically It is a collec tron of very short fictional stories baseci around EIvrs and his entourage Crump has taken the more ridiculous side of the Flvis rnytb ri‘iad books clairiiing psychic connec trons and other assorted craziness and distilled them into an odd little journey through the Memphis backwoods of the 50s and 60s

First line tests The opening salvos include A few months before Elvrs joined the army his entourage took on a new member, a forty pound chimpar‘xee called Sc attei,’ r'Scatter'i, and When he was a foetus, Elvis used to wait till his Mom was asleep, carefully remove his umbilical cord, sneak out of her insides and head off to town,’ I’Elvis Fucked-Up Foetus’r Recommendation ‘A deeply perverse set of ideas from an obviously troubled personality I loved it ' Todd ivlc Ewan Compare and contrast 6' rump, \.'/|iil his obsession for sex, blood, guts and surreal violence shares uncanny similarities With anarc liic skinhead writer Stewart Home

What's next Havrncj recently worked as a curators assistant in a medical museum, Crump is presently completing a cycle of novellas provrsionally entitled I‘i/lonkey’s Birthday (9 Other Stories Pass that sic ‘-’ bag iPaul Dalei

31‘- i‘i/ly Elvis Blackout rs published by Bloomsbury on Thu 23 Nov priced [ 70