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Posts Tagged ‘Shirley Hazzard

The Booker Prize remembers the 70s

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The Booker Prize remembers some great novels 40 years on

The world famous Man Booker Prize is delving back 30 years to create the long list for what has been dubbed as The Lost Man Booker Prize. The reason for a wealth of literary gems missing out the chance to win one of the literary world’s most respected prizes has been put down to the fact that in 1971 just two years after it began The Booker stopped being awarded retrospectively and became as it is now the best novel in the year of publication. At the same time the date of the award being given was moved from April to November, this now means that one year’s worth of publications published in 1970 missed out on the chance to be nominated for the Booker prize.

Now forty years on a panel of judges whom all of them where born in or around 1970 has been selected to judge to create the shortlist of six novels that the Booker prize nearly forgot. The long list was made up of books that would have been available for selection in 1970 as well as still being in print and easily available. The panel of judges is made up of journalist and critic, Rachel Cooke, ITN newsreader, Katie Derham and poet and novelist, Tobias Hill.

The long list which was announced on the 1 February is

Brian Aldiss, ‘The Hand Reared Boy’
H.E.Bates, ‘A Little Of What You Fancy?’
Nina Bawden, ‘The Birds On The Trees’
Melvyn Bragg, ‘A Place In England’
Christy Brown, ‘Down All The Days’
Len Deighton, ‘Bomber’
J.G.Farrell, ‘Troubles’
Elaine Feinstein, ‘The Circle’
Shirley Hazzard, ‘The Bay Of Noon’
Reginald Hill, ‘A Clubbable Woman’
Susan Hill, ‘I’m The King Of The Castle’
Francis King, ‘A Domestic Animal’
Margaret Laurence, ‘The Fire Dwellers’
David Lodge, ‘Out Of The Shelter’
Iris Murdoch, ‘A Fairly Honourable Defeat’
Shiva Naipaul, ‘Fireflies’
Patrick O’Brian, ‘Master and Commander’
Joe Orton, ‘Head To Toe’
Mary Renault, ‘Fire From Heaven’
Ruth Rendell, ‘A Guilty Thing Surprised’
Muriel Spark, ‘The Driver’s Seat’
Patrick White, ‘The Vivisector’

Some of the names featured in the long list have featured in later Booker prize nominations David Lodge, Muriel Spark, Nina Bawden and Susan Hill where all featured in later lists. Going one step further J.G. Farrell, novel The Siege of Krishnapur won the prize in 1973 whilst Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea won in 1978. Proving that the long list is not just made up of one hit wonders that should remain in the 70s, Ion Trewin, literary director of the Man Booker Prizes commented on the list saying “Our long list demonstrates that 1970 was a remarkable year for fiction written in English. Recognition for these novels and the eventual winner is long overdue”.

The shortlist will be announced in March but like previous Booker prizes the final six will be thrown to the reading public for voting, with the overall winner being announced in May.

Watch Hilary Mantel chat about winning The Man Booker Prize 2009 with her novel Wolf Hall belo:

Discussion:
So, do you think The Booker Prize guys have missed off any titles? What is your favourite book of the 70s and why? Maybe there’s another novel based in the 70s that deserves some credit too?

Words: Seamus Swords

Final Fantasy II

Waterstones’ New Voices 2009 – Interview One – Janice Y. K. Lee

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Janice Y.K Lees debute novel

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K Lee

Janice Y. K. Lee has written her first novel to much acclaim, after making it onto the Waterstones’ New Voices 2009 The Scribbler has managed to secure a quick Q&A with the writer.

This interview is the first in a series in which we hope to talk to all the nominated writers competing for the Waterstones award.

Impressing many publications from the intellectual New Yorker to fashion magazine Vogue, Janice Y. K. Lee has managed to impress some of the harshest critiques with The Piano Teacher, a tale of love, passion and survival in 1940s and 50s Hong Kong.

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THE SCRIBBLER: What is different about your writing that helps it stand out from other new writers at the moment?

JANICE Y. K. LEE: I think that people like to be transported in a novel, and 40s and 50s Hong Kong is sufficiently far away from most peoples’ worlds that they feel as if they are travelling and learning a little bit.  The Piano Teacher has been described as an historical epic and an epic love story and I think both of those appeals to readers.

TS: As a New Voice of 2009 you must be inspired by some very contemporary authors. Which writers do you enjoy reading and draw inspiration from?

JYKL: I do read mostly contemporary writers, partly because I want to support writers working now and also because it is the closest to my heart.  I think Shirley Hazzard and Michael Ondaatje are amazing.  Also Amy Hempel, Lorrie Moore, Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Eugenides.  I could go on and on.

TS:  Our readers will be very interested in how you approach a writing project. Where do you lift your ideas from?

JYKL: I don’t know that I “lift” them as much as they come floating up to the conscious part of my head.  I’ll be thinking about many things, and some will keep coming back, or be resonating for a reason I cannot figure out.  I was interested in a long time by people who steal, people who one would never think would do such a thing.  This found its way into short stories, characters I would write about, and eventually found its way into the book.  TPT started as a short story about an English piano teacher and her young Chinese student.  From there, the characters really led me to their story.

TS: When you first began writing how easy was it to find and sign to publisher? Can you talk us through that process?

JYKL: I have an unusual story, which will probably not be that helpful, unfortunately.  My teacher from grad school, Chang rae Lee, introduced me to my agent, and she took me on the basis of my short stories but she really encouraged me to write a novel.  It took me a while, but after 5 years, I had my novel.  She was always very encouraging of it and because I took so long to make sure it was right, it was in good shape by the time I finished it.  From there, she sent it out and there were a lot of interested parties and it ended up going to auction.  I had a lot of rejection during my 20s with my short stories, but luckily, with this novel, it was a fairy tale sort of story.

Janice Y.K Lee

Janice Y. K. Lee

TS: What obstacles have you come across in your writing and how did you overcome them?

JYKL: I think writing a first novel, in particular, is difficult as you are writing in obscurity, you are likely not making any money, and people often don’t know what to make of you.  All I can say is that you just have to believe in yourself, and in your book, and keep on.

TS: We often hear that artists have trouble dealing with their own pieces (i.e. musicians not able to listen to their albums etc.) How do you feel about your own work? Are you comfortable with it?

JYKL: I haven’t read the book through since it came out.  I don’t know when I’ll do that.  I do flip through sometimes, and read a passage, and usually I will like it.  I suppose that’s pretty good!

TS: Have you already started work on your next book? Is it difficult to leave one piece behind and start new one?

JYKL: Writing a second book is awfully difficult as well!  I feel there is a certain expectation as to the kind of the book I will write, and I’m trying hard to let that feeling go and write what I want to write.  I think I have successfully left TPT behind but it’s just trying to get to that new place right now.

TS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given and advice would you give to our budding readers today?

JYKL: Treat writing like a job.  It is a job and you have to work very hard at it.  It is not always some romantic life of late nights and wine and talking about one’s process (that may come afterwards! or before!).  You have to sit at that desk and write.

TS: In your opinion what is The Piano Teacher about?

JYKL: I think it’s about Claire (the book’s piano teacher), but I’ve been argued down to the ground about that.  Others think it is about consequences of actions made under duress, east meets west, wartime.  But I’ll stick to my guns and say it’s about Claire’s journey as a person.

TS: What books inspired you to pick up the pen and start writing?

JYKL: Any of the books written by the writers I mentioned above will move me and make me want to write.  They have a way of surprising readers, using words differently, illuminating character, that make one pause and savour the language.  

TS: What is your learning background? And do you feel it helped you in writing your novel?

JYKL: I went to university and studied English and American Literature which was certainly helpful.  I did an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Creative Writing which was helpful insofar as it gave me time to write in a community of people who were doing the same thing.

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Click on the below clip to hear an except from The Piano Teacher:

Discussion:
Please take this chance to discuss, promote or rant about Janice Y.K Lee or any of your favourite new writers for 2009, and expect more Q&As with the novelists on the Waterstones ones to watch list 2009.

Words: Seamus Swords