Man Booker Prize Readings

Last night I attended the 2012 Man Booker Prize Readings at the Royal Festival Hall. All six of the authors shortlisted for the event read from their book and then answered questions from James Naughtie. The writers are:

  • Tan Twan Eng – The Garden of Evening Mists
  • Deborah Levy – Swimming Home
  • Hilary Mantel – Bring Up the Bodies
  • Alison Moore – The Lighthouse
  • Will Self – Umbrella
  • Jeet Thayil – Narcopolis

After the readings the authors answered questions from the audience. One particular question upset the panel. A young man asked all of the writers to name who they thought should win the award and they couldn’t name their own book. Will Self refused to answer the question and Hilary Mantel said that in order to avoid such a tricky question, she hasn’t read the other nominees yet. The audience, though, wanted blood and wanted the authors to answer the question. James Naughtie moved on to other questions.

I wasn’t able to take photos during the event since it was dark in the hall. However, I took some photos as I walked across The Thames to the hall and then after.

It was a wonderful opportunity to listen to these writers and I enjoyed the evening. The winner will be announced this evening.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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49 Responses to Man Booker Prize Readings

  1. jmgoyder says:

    That was definitely a tricky question but I would have expected better from the writers.

    • TBM says:

      I was happy that the writers refused to answer. yes, it would add some drama to the event, but the question was not fair. I wouldn’t want to bash my fellow writers, especially to their face. The judges will decide today who will win the award and it’s a great honor for all of the authors to be considered for the prize.

      • jmgoyder says:

        You are probably right about bashing – so funny – sorry!

      • TBM says:

        Oh no need to apologize…many, many, many people wanted to hear the answers. and on one level I did as well. But I felt for the writers. No one wants to be called out like that in such a public forum.

      • jmgoyder says:

        Yes I bet it was very awkward!

      • TBM says:

        Yes…and I felt bad for the man who asked the question since it didn’t go over well. Maybe he intended all along to ask a touchy question, but maybe he didn’t. I couldn’t see his face and his reaction when Self refused to answer. If it was me, I would be embarrassed. Not sure I would ask that question though.

  2. melouisef says:

    Not really an impressive list. As the Guardian says this year they have turned their back on readable books. Loved last year’s A sense of an Ending.

    Did read The Lighthouse and I finsihed it because I was expecting something… But of course to get onto a list like this it is your agent who leaves copies on desks and always who you know and in what circles you move. No I won’t be reading more, not even The Umbrella. Does the emperor wear clothes?

    • TBM says:

      I have to claim ignorance on this one since I haven’t read any of the authors. I was happy to hear that two of the authors were published by small, independent publishers. And Moore was nominated for her debut novel, The Lighthouse. Unfortunately you didn’t like that on. I think, after hearing them read from their novels, I will read their books. I’m curious to find out what all the hubbub is about. I think either Mantel or Self will win tonight. Thoughts?

      • melouisef says:

        I think Self is the favourite to win. Pick up Moore for starters because it is not thick, then you tell me. She writes well but somehow it did not for me lead to introspection or thinking much about anything…I found her ‘hero’ somewhat weird.Not the kind of book that you wilol be remembering for long time to come (METHINKS).
        But hey I will never be on that list!
        P S South African author J Coetzee won 2x so by the way

      • TBM says:

        Moore talked about her main character and she said she was surprised that people found him so quirky. I guess she’s kinda like him, so she didn’t find him that odd. I may have misunderstood her, but I think that’s what she was getting at. I will let you know what I think after I read it.

        I was looking at all the previous winners last night and oh boy, there are some big names. I did see Coetzee on the list. I still have 9 more of his books on my 1001 list. I read Dusklands last spring. Do you have a suggestion for my next one?

        Self seems like the likely winner. I will be shocked if someone other than Self or Mantel win.

      • melouisef says:

        Terrible to admit but I have not read Coetzee, nor other South African authors.I have Andre P Brink’s latest as a to read but it is going to take some time for me to get there. Have just finsished The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper and loved it , like a tragic comedy. Won’t win any prizes I am sure but he writes extremely well, nice style.
        And then last year’s winner – a Sense of an Ending I will read again!

      • TBM says:

        I haven’t read The Book of Joe but I’ll keep an eye out when I’m at the library. And I’ll look for A Sense of an Ending. I like Coetzee’s writing, but his subject matter is tough to take in large doses. I hope to read the next nine over many years. Some authors I can devour in chunks, but not him. That isn’t to say that he isn’t a great writer. In fact he may be too good since he makes me so uncomfortable and I get so immersed in his stories.

  3. That sounds like an interesting night. I am going to a book reading in Toronto in two weeks with a couple of friends, and I am really excited. I am hoping to get my books signed while there :).

    • TBM says:

      Who are you seeing? I love book readings…I need to track down more.

      • Believe it or not, this will be the first book reading I have ever been to. The author is Deborah Harkness. I did a post about her newest book a few months ago. She is a university professor who published her first novel, A Discovery of Witches, a little over a year ago. It is about witches and vampires, but it is an adult novel filled with the history of science and alchemy because that is what she is an expert on. She has quickly become one of my favourite authors!! There are going to be a couple of other authors reading as well, but I am really going to see her. This reading is part the International Festival of Authors which takes place for a couple of weeks in October in Toronto, and there are readings and round table discussions, etc. I am making it a girls’ night out with a couple of close friends – should be fun!!

      • TBM says:

        Oh that sounds fun! I haven’t read her, but I do love witches and vampires. I’m reading Anne Rice now. I hope you sure all that you learn and are able to take some pictures. And I love Toronto. I’ve only been once, but we managed to squeeze in a concert, a baseball game, and many restaurants and bars in 3 days. it was a blast.

      • You are your bars!!! LOL! You should come to Toronto again, so that I could come down and meet you :). I grew up there, but I live a little north of the city now.

      • TBM says:

        I’ll let you know if I’m in the area. I know I owe you some beers in exchange for photography tips 🙂

      • Oops, I’m obviously tired this morning. I looked back at my comment and I meant to say “you AND your bars”. LOL!

      • TBM says:

        I figured it out…have some coffee!

  4. Caroline says:

    This sounds like a great event. Wonderful.
    Tricky question indeed, on the other hand, why did they not answer? Imagine you just love a book more than any other, why not say so? I’m not saying I would have done it, I would have tried to avoid the answer too but in the end it’s sad. Just because I love book A doesn’t mean I don’t not like B, C, D…
    Wyh do we always have to be so competitive and begrudging others’ success?

    • TBM says:

      It was a fantastic experience and I’m so glad I learned about it days before the event. I would be afraid to hurt someone’s feelings. I’m sure all of them are nervous and then if none of the others mentioned their book, that would be hard to take I think. But you’re right, it doesn’t mean that the others didn’t like all of the books, but I think hearing praise of others is hard in this situation. Fortunately I won’t be in this situation. I would love to be a judge though. How cool to read all of the books!

  5. letizia says:

    What a great evening to be a part of! I haven’t read the nominated books yet but am looking forward to it – thanks for sharing such a fascinating story.

    • TBM says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed. I hope you like the books if you get to them. I’m really curious about them now. Happy reading! And don’t lose the book covers 😉

  6. zelmare says:

    I can imagine the discomfort… I wouldn’t have wanted to answer that question either! 🙂

  7. winsomebella says:

    Wonderful experience….thank you for the glimpse of it 🙂

  8. IsobelandCat says:

    Snaps! Guess what my post is about today? 🙂

  9. Kate Kresse says:

    you have officially inspired me to start a list of books to read! I have not read any of those books~how fun to go hear the authors do the readings from their books. My eyes would have been as big as saucers at the thrill of it all! I hope you will post who won!

    • TBM says:

      I always love to hear that I’ve inspired someone to read…I should warn you, I haven’t read anything by these authors. They haven’t announced the winner yet, but soon 🙂

  10. Carol says:

    What a neat event to go to. I have to admit that I haven’t read any of them though.

  11. Lucid Gypsy says:

    oh i love literary events, here in Devon we have Ways with Words in Dartington every summer!

  12. Vishy says:

    Great to know that you had a wonderful time at the readings! So jealous of you 🙂 Loved the photos! I thought that one of the writers would have given a smart answer without naming a particular book 🙂 I am surprised no one did that.

    • TBM says:

      They weren’t given much time to think about it. The moderator wasn’t willing to let it get to that point I think. I would have loved to seen some of them dance around it.

  13. TBM says:

    And the award goes to Hilary Mantel for Bring Up the Bodies. This is the second Booker prize she has won, making her the first woman and British writer to win the award twice. She won in 2009 for Wolf Hall.

  14. Fergiemoto says:

    Hmmm…I would find that to be an unfair question and wouldn’t appreciate being put on the spot.
    Great photos, and sounds like a cool experience!

  15. pattisj says:

    That is a rather odd question. It wouldn’t be fair if all had not read the entries, but it might have given the writers the opportunity to encourage each other.

  16. I am so tired of the modern meme of “gotcha” questions. Good for the authors to not answer and good for the moderator to move on.

  17. Northern Narratives says:

    What fun to be at this event. I heard about it on public radio 🙂

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