Posts Tagged ‘Christos Tsiolkas’

Last week in Dublin, I interviewed Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap, which is long-listed for this year’s Booker Prize. The book follows the lives of eight characters – of various races, ethnicity and circumstance – in suburban Melbourne after a child is slapped (not by his parents) at a family barbecue. Tsiolkas was an engaging and thought-provoking interviewee  and the alloted word count simply didn’t run to including all the worthwhile things he had to say.

The novel, his fourth, has been hugely divisive. Some think it brilliant and relevant, others (like India Knight) dismiss it as “unbelievably misogynist”. It’s a book populated by cheating husbands, dysfunctional relationships and casual racism. Even the women refer to themselves as sluts. There is a lot of sex, much of it unfeeling, aggressive and there is an underlying tone of menace directed at several of the female characters. But it’s a book. And Tsiolkas is not a misogynist. He’s a sincere, intelligent, gay man who has been with his partner for 25 years. Do people automatically blur the lines between authorial reality and fictional viewpoint? Does writing about misogynist make him a de facto misogynist? (I don’t think it does). And why do so many people have such disparate views on the novel? Online, people have been quick to detract, even when they haven’t read it, because as Derek O’Connor writes in his 500 Words of Summer post on On the Record today:

Everybody knows that you don’t need to actually experience the art in question any more to have an opinion on it.

Have you read The Slap? Did you like it? Is it misogynistic?

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Later today (update: scroll down for longlist) the longlist for the 2010 Man Booker Prize will be announced. The initial longlist of 13 books should result in a slight bump in sales, but then apparently TV Book clubs sell more books than a Man Booker nomination. In the run up the longlist announcement, speculation has been frantic and broad-ranging, but what was most interesting about this year, was a discussion that book place on Twitter last week. Guardian Books Editor Claire Armitstead (@carmitstead) asked her followers to take a punt on who they expected to see nominated. A large chunk of the replies suggested were books by male authors, which prompted this tweet from book blogger Rachael Beale (aka @FlossieTeacake): “Oh God, please not an all-male longlist… I might cry.” With novels like The Long Song by Andrea Levy, Miss Thing by Nora Chassler, The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell, The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon, Burley Cross by Nicola Barker, The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna, Room by Emma Donoghue, Ruby’s Spoon by Anna Lawrence Pietroni and The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn eligible, does that discussion imply that the standard of books by women written in the last year wasn’t very hight? It’s certainly true of some very big name writers (and past winners, who happen to be men), like Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Yann Martel who have all published below-par novels this year.

There’s a randomness to predicting most arts prizes, but I think we might see Jon McGregor, Tom McCarthy, Paul Murray, Andrea Levy, Joe O’Connor, Christos Tsiolkas and David Mitchell on there. Possible Irish contenders include O’Connor, Hugo Hamilton, Emma Donoghue and Paul Murray.

Where having is concerned, my outright bet would be on David Mitchell’s Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. But there’s always the cautionary tale of Joseph O’Neill. Two years ago, William Hill stopped taking bets at the longlist stage on Netherland being the overall winner and the book failed to make the shortlist. Ah yes, Julian Barnes you wily old fox, it IS “posh bingo”.

What have you read and what are you think should be on the longlist? What would you love/hate to see on there?

Update: Here’s the 2010 longlist. Congrats to all the nominees

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber and Faber)

Emma Donoghue Room (Pan MacMillan – Picador)

Helen Dunmore The Betrayal (Penguin – Fig Tree)

Damon Galgut In a Strange Room (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Books)

Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)

Andrea Levy The Long Song
(Headline Publishing Group – Headline Review)

Tom McCarthy C (Random House – Jonathan Cape)

David Mitchell The Thousand Autumns of Zacob de Zoet (Hodder & Stoughton – Sceptre)

Lisa Moore February (Random House – Chatto & Windus)

Paul Murray Skippy Dies (Penguin – Hamish Hamilton)

Rose Tremain Trespass (Random House – Chatto & Windus)

Christos Tsiolkas The Slap (Grove Atlantic – Tuskar Rock)

Alan Warner The Stars in the Bright Sky
(Random House – Jonathan Cape)

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