September 2017, a phone call from Claire.
‘The ticket line opens in five days, Cath, are you up for the Cheltenham Booker this year? It’s 1937. I’ve got the reading list.’
‘Great, any you know?’
‘I read Mice & Men years ago, for school, and I’ve seen the film of the Hobbit – does that count?’
‘Pretty much, I think.’
‘The rest I’ve never heard of. I’ll text you the list.’
Text from Claire:
Which 1937 title deserves to win our very own Booker? Our all-star line-up of Damian Barr, Adam Kay, Jackie Kay, Adam Thorpe and Alex Wheatle discuss A.J. Cronin’s The Citadel, Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. They fight it out to determine which would have triumphed, had The Man Booker Prize existed eighty years ago. Chaired by James Walton, with an introduction by John Coldstream.
Saturday 14th October at the Lit.Fest with Claire: 1.30pm.
‘Good seats, Claire.’
‘Thanks, have you read any of the other books?’
‘Only extracts off the internet, and plot summaries. You?’
‘No. I’m waiting to hear the outcome, then I might buy the winner. I love this event, it’s introduced me to so many good writers. I bought another Elizabeth Taylor the other day.’
2.45pm, overheard in the crush on the way out.
‘Steinbeck should have won.’
‘Don’t you think the panel caved-in quickly at the end?’
‘I’m just going to the bookshop for the Zora Neale Hurston, first. I’ll meet you at the Hive in about ten minutes.’
‘I still can’t believe they knocked out Hemmingway in the first round.’
‘Well, does it matter if the characters are all male?’
‘I agree with Adam Thorpe, I don’t like plots to be too tidy.’
‘Not too dark though, surely.’
‘…so I’m going to read it again….’
‘What if it is a children’s book? Animal Farm nearly won last year.’
‘Are the female characters only in the film, then?’
‘Personally I won’t read fantasy. Fiction should be realistic, not about fairies and dwarves…’
‘Amazing to think it’s really about The Somme.’
‘Actually, this is my ninth Booker.’
‘…and it reminded me of Doc Martin…of course so did Doctor Finlay, now I think about it.’
‘But is it a book only of it’s time?’
‘The thing is, this is an authentic black woman’s voice at a time when there is no black voice.’
‘That first line is just beautiful.’
‘…and I’ve always liked Maya Angelou, so it’ll be interesting to see how she compares.’
‘I can’t think how I’ve never heard of her before.’