In which lots of white men (and one Sri Lankan) receive prizes, Mr. Electrico’s impact on twentieth-century literature is fondly remembered, and I find a Christmas present for my girlfriend.
The Griffin Trust were in a generous mood this week, handing out ‘the world’s largest prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in, or translated into English, from any country in the world’ (deep breath, carry on, leave those commas alone)… Ken Babstock won the Canadian prize for the intriguingly-titled Methodist Hatchet, while English poet David Harsent took home the International prize for the far less intriguingly-titled Night. Serial prize-winner Seamus Heaney received the Lifetime Recognition Award.
Bankrupt Spain managed to find €50,000 to give to Philip Roth, winner of this year’s Asturias Prize. Roth, the annual favourite for the Nobel Prize amongst people who haven’t yet realised that languages other than English still exist, was praised for his ‘complex view of contemporary reality torn between reason and feeling.’ Roth’s most memorable creations include Alexander Portnoy, who seems (to this reader at least) like an enormous tit, and Professor David Kepesh, who is literally an enormous tit.
Shehan Karunatilaka won the Commonwealth book prize for Chinaman: the Legend of Pradeep Mathew. Karunatilaka’s work strays into Hunter Thompson territory by employing an alcoholic journalist as the narrator, but it’s hard to imagine Hunter writing about Sri Lankan cricket. Don’t let the cricket put you off though: Karunatilaka promises that ‘if you can’t understand why anyone would watch, let alone obsess over, this dull game, then this is the book for you.’ That’s my girlfriend’s Christmas present sorted then…
Ray Bradbury, who ‘fell into writing’ after being urged to ‘live forever!’ by a carnival magician called Mr. Electrico, has died at the age of 91. Bradbury was 12 at the time of the encounter with Mr. Electrico, and wrote every day from then on. He was prolific in various genres, but will probably be remembered for Fahrenheit 451, which references ‘the autoignition temperature of paper’ (don’t try this at home) and contains the greatest man-being-chased-by-robotic-dog scene in literary history.