THE HOOPLA LITERARY SOCIETY
“I knew from the first paragraph that this was going to be the best thing I’d ever done.”
- Hilary Mantel on the writing of her Man Booker Prize winners, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.
Hilary Mantel wins the 2012 Man Booker Prize for the second time. Front page illustration by Kelly Dyson via The Guardian.
There is so much exciting news this week! First off, The Stella Prize committee has announced that April 2013 will see the awarding of the first major literary prize for women in Australia.
The $50,000 Prize will be presented for the best work of literature published in 2012 by an Australian woman.
“We want to encourage future generations of women writers, by increasing the recognition for Australian women’s writing and supporting strong female role models. We also want to celebrate women’s contribution to Australian literature,” says Aviva Tuffield, chair of The Stella Prize.
The winner will be decided by a panel of judges, chaired by respected critic and writer Kerryn Goldsworthy and comprising author Kate Grenville, actor Claudia Karvan, Fiona Stager (immediate past president of the Australian Booksellers’ Association) and ABC broadcaster, Rafael Epstein.
Entries are open from now until Thursday, 15 November. I, for one, cannot wait to see the longlist.
My first thought on hearing that Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies won the 2012 Man Booker Prize was, ‘I wonder how many writers have won the prize twice?’ But little did I realize that Hilary Mantel has actually secured two other accolades by this week’s win of the £50,000 prize.
She is the first ever author to win the prize with a sequel and the first ever author to win the prize a second time so soon after the previous win. (Mantel won the 2009 Man Booker with Wolf Hall.)
Only two other authors have won the Man Booker more than once. Australian author Peter Carey won it in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda and then again in 2001 with The True History of the Kelly Gang. The other author is South African born J.M. Coetzee, who won the 1983 Man Booker with his novel Life and Times of Michael K and the 1999 prize with Disgrace. (Although technically he is an Aussie too since he became an Australian citizen in 2006.)
Chairman of judges for the 2012 Man Booker, Peter Stothard described Mantel as, “”the greatest modern English prose writer” working today, adding that Bring Up The Bodies “utterly surpassed” Wolf Hall.
Mantel is widely credited with reinvigorating historical fiction with her rendering of the life and times of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII.
And for those with a penchant for a flutter, Mantel is currently writing the third book in the trilogy. Time will tell if she can score a Man Booker hat trick.
The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan
“Sometimes, she thinks, it takes someone who knew you back when to illuminate the missing you here and now, a black light beamed over invisible ink, a fresh set of eyes that haven’t witnessed the decades of self-deception, a new set of ears that were not privy to the steady, insistent drumbeat: I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.”
Every five years, the alumni of Harvard University are required to update their entry in a bound, crimson-coloured report called The Red Book. For Jane, Mia, Addison and Clover it is one of the milestones that mark the passing of time in a friendship dating back to their dorm days The upcoming 20th reunion weekend is the perfect opportunity for the old roommates to catch up on each other’s lives. However, outward happiness, financial security and career success are insufficient markers for what’s important in life when you hit your forties.
Jane has lost her husband and her mother in the space of a year and has come back to America to settle her mother’s estate, unprepared for the revelations about her mother’s secret life.
Mia is married to Hollywood’s most successful Rom Com director and all-round good guy, Jonathon. After twenty odd years starring in the role of motherhood, Mia is beginning to wonder whatever happened to her aspirations for a career on the stage.
Trust fund baby Addison is the one who had it all on a plate, but her marriage is a lie. Running into Bennie, her live-in lover of two years in college days, raises all sorts of ugly questions about the compromises and the lies Addison has spun to justify why she is still an unshown artist and her writer husband Gunner is battling with writer’s block spanning ten years.
Then there is Clover, newly married at 41, the misfit of the bunch, who forged a career as a fund manager with Lehmann Brothers, enabling her to buy all the trappings and security money provides but is unable to get the one thing she wants, a baby.
Deborah Copaken Kogan knows this territory all too well having graduated from Harvard in 1988, about the same time as her cast of characters. On one level, this book is about friendship, marriage, children, careers and reaching forty something. But what makes The Red Book a great novel, not just a great read, is some of the bigger questions it raises.
Kogan explores the role of social media on sustaining relationships and feigning friendships, the ease with which children can access internet porn, and how mobile technology makes it so much easier to lie. There is this wonderful juxtaposition between an email sent to the wrong party, and a typed “Dear John” letter from thirty years earlier.
Of course, this is precisely the environment, this undergraduate hot bed of loyalties, social acceptance and sexual tension that led to the creation of Facebook in the first place. Being able to disconnect from technology is becoming harder and harder, and Kogan ponders how this will inevitably affect the authenticity of our relationships, “to exchange real thoughts and feelings and information, without the constant interruptions that so frequently befall [us.]”
You may already be familiar with Kogan’s work, such as her memoir, Shutterbabe - about her years as a photojournalist, or her collection of essays, Hell is Other Parents. She writes with intelligence, warmth and compassion, not to mention a dash of humour.
The Red Book will keep you couch bound.
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