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An anxious Child

An anxious Child

Should Lee Child, one of the Booker Prize judges currently arrowing in on a winner (or perhaps still torn in multiple directions – what are their thoughts at the moment?), need distraction from his duties, he can pass an idle moment or two by keeping an eye on the bestseller lists. Child has just published his 25th Jack Reacher novel, The Sentinel, though this is the first co-written with his brother, Andrew Child. Earlier in the year Lee announced that he didn’t feel he had the stamina to stick with his one-man vigilante army for the longer haul and was “passing the baton” to his younger brother, himself an established thriller writer under the name of Andrew Grant. The new book is the first fruit of their joint labours. Child senior is a fixture on the bestseller lists so will be watching carefully to see if the broadening of the brand has any effect on his chart position.


Bernardine Evaristo, co-Booker prize champ – for a little while longer – has been discussing why she wrote a poem called “The Wind”. It was, she says, in response to a request from the BBC to write something “uplifting” – “not the kind of thing I usually write”. And she settled on a meteorological theme: “I’ve fallen in love with the wind,” she says. “I find it so invigorating and so refreshing.” Her poem is a paean to a life-force: “The wind is a freedom fighter that will cleanse us from stuffiness and inertia”, she writes. A video of the author reading the whole work can be found here. On 23 November, Evaristo will be called on to anoint her Booker Prize successor. The usual interviewee will turn interviewer and subject the box-fresh Booker Prize winner to a gentle grilling, their first public event following the big reveal, under the aegis of the Southbank Centre in London. Needless to say, the encounter will be streamed, so all interested parties – and who isn’t? – can cock an ear. Of course there is already a roster of events and recordings of this year’s shortlistees in various formats and media – carefully curated to ensure that Lockdown Volume II passes in a flash.


A curious instance of one degree of separation. What do the double Booker Prize winner Peter Carey and the actress Rebel Wilson have in common, other than being Australians domiciled in America? In 2015, Wilson, star of the Pitch Perfect movie franchise, bought Carey’s old house in the chi-chi and very expensive neighbourhood of Louisa Grove, Birchwood, with homes having views of Sydney Harbour Bridge. The actress paid $3.76 million for her Australian crash-pad. However, Carey is either the originator or script writer of six films, the most recent being 2019’s True History of the Kelly Gang, but having a house in common has yet to secure Wilson a role in any of them.


If you read this in time, another of just four Booker Prize double winners, JM Coetzee, turned 80 this year. The South African novelist lives in Australia (and no, Carey didn’t leave the country as a result) and on 8 November the University of Adelaide – where he is Professor of Literature – is marking the occasion with an evening of events, music and a reading from the birthday celebrant himself. There will be a live stream of the proceedings and no doubt a recording will be made for those living around the world and unable to calculate the time difference between their home country and south eastern Australia.


Naturally, betting should be done with care – stop when the fun stops, and all that – but a quick look at the Booker Prize odds as the days before 19 November tick themselves off reveals the bookies’ thoughts. According to Paddy Power, at least, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body is the favourite with complicated odds of 23/10, then Douglas Stuart with Shuggie Bain at 3/1, Maaza Mengiste's The Shadow King at 4/1, Brandon Taylor’s Real Life at 11/2, Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar at 6/1 and Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness at 7/1. This shouldn’t be taken as encouragement but if you have a tenner burning a hole in your pocket. . .