My fingers and toes are crossed, hoping that next month another kiwi will bag a Booker! You probably already know that Mister Pip, by New Zealander Lloyd Jones, is in the running for this year's Man Booker Prize, and that he's even been named by the bookies as favourite to win ... above Ian McEwan! If he wins, it'll only be the second time that a New Zealander has won a Booker. So, of course, us fellow kiwis - sprinkled as we are around the world - must celebrate this literary achievement. How will I do that? I have ordered Jones' book, which is said to be a real treat. The winner is announced on October the 16th and I really hope that Jones can pull it off. Of course, I'm saying that before I've even read the book, but you can understand my bias, no? Graham Sharpe from the bookies William Hill was quoted as saying: ”We have seen an unprecedented gamble on this virtually unknown writer. In a quarter of a century of Booker betting I cannot recall as spectacular a gamble before and we could be looking at our first six -figure payout in Booker history. We are even seeing people betting on a double of New Zealander Jones winning the Booker and hot favourites New Zealand winning the rugby World Cup which currently pays odds of 7/2.” It's wonderful that this work, which also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book in 2006, has been able to get its head above the choppy waters of international literature.
To date Keri Hulme is the only kiwi who has a Booker sitting on her shelf - I assume she hasn't sold it or binned it! The Bone People, which is one of my favourite books of all time, won back in 1985. I will never forget the experience of reading this for the first time, at the age of 18, so blown away by the style. It was so different to anything I had ever read and the characters have never left me. It is one of the few books that I have read several times. If you haven't read it then I highly recommend you do. It is very hard to describe the experience, what makes it a winner on so many levels. Of course, many people disagree, and there was enormous controversy when it won. The story of how the book was born - rejected by mainstream publishers and then taken on by a women's collective - is great. Keri Hulme herself is a wonderful, colourful character: she lives in a house she built herself; she's mad about fishing; she has been working on "twin" follow-up novels for years, living alone in a wild, coastal part of New Zealand's south island. The media often describes her as someone who's turned into a recluse, a label she flatly rejects. Yes, she does get out of the house and she does see people! I just hope that she does publish some more novels. There have been some short stories and other pieces of wonderful writing over the years since her win, but I am keen to skin and cook up something more substantial.