The big news from the world of books and prizes this week was the announcement of the winner of the Booker Prize. In a shock decision, the Booker Prize was given to two authors, Margaret Atwood for The Testaments and Bernadine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other.
The judges simply couldn’t split their choice for the winner when it came to it and after five agonising hours decided it would be two winners for the Booker Prize in 2019. It’s only happened on two other occasions, Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton in 1974 and to Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth in 1992, and the rules were changed afterwards in 1993. So this is a signifiant event.
Bernardine Evaristo, the first black woman to be awarded the Booker Prize, won for her eighth book of fiction, which she has written alongside essays, drama and writing for BBC radio. Evaristo drew on aspects of the African diaspora, past, present, real or imagined, to inform Girl, Woman, Other.
Bernardine Evaristo is a professor of creative writing at Brunel University in London and has received several honours and award. Her other books include Mr Loverman, Blond Roots, Hello Mum and The Emperor’s Babe. Evaristo is an activist and advocate for the inclusion of artists and writers of colour and has initiated several successful schemes to ensure increased representation in the creative industries.
It’s the second Booker Prize win for Margaret Atwood, who picked up the prestigious gong in 2000 for The Blind Assassin. The Broad is a long-time fan of Margaret Atwood and even interviewed her via email many years ago in her day job. A longer post on The Testaments is planned for the blog very soon and The Broad has just added Girl, Woman, Other to her reading list for an upcoming post too.
As well as The Handmaid’s Tale, the Broad recommends Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and her non-fiction book about the creative process On Writers and Writing if you’re keen to delve into the renowned Canadian writer’s oeuvre. You can even take a class with her through the Masterclass website if you are looking for her guidance for your own writing.
On a practical level, winning an award like the Booker Prize brings much-needed funds for writers in a profession that isn’t terribly well remunerated and requires a significant commitment of time for the creative process. As the first black woman to win the Booker, it will hopefully bring attention to the challenge of inclusion for writers of colour and other diverse voices.
The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t the only Margaret Atwood novel to be adapted for TV. Alias Grace was adapted by Netflix into a seven-part series in 2017 and tells the story of Grace Marks, a young housemaid in 19th-century Canada who is convicted of murder. The Broad has watched it and recommends it as compelling viewing – a story that resonates today with its themes of truth, injustice, class and women’s position in society.
Still on Netflix, because, well, everyone seems to be watching it, here are a couple of other suggestions. The Broad and Mr Broad have just started watching Derry Girls, a funny series created and written by Lisa McGee about a bunch of high school students set in Derry in 1990s Northern Ireland. A head’s up that you might struggle a bit with the accents, but persevere, it’s worth it and look out for the school nun, who is very droll.
The Broad’s favourite Secret Santa present she was given at work some years ago was the ‘Los Polos Hermanos’ branded coffee mug. It perfectly captured that year of being strung out by the final season of the TV series Breaking Bad. Since then, it’s been a delight to spend time with the lawyer gone bad Saul in the series prequel, Better Call Saul. So it came as a surprise to find El Camino, the Netflix spin-off post-sequel movie, out and proud on Netflix’s home page last weekend.
Despite the absence of many key characters, a blaze of guns in the last few eps will do that for you, it was a gripping film with the dark humour and suspense of Breaking Bad. If you’re a fan, highly recommended. If you’ve never watched the TV series, definitely don’t watch this now. Pencil it in the diary for six months time, after watching Breaking Bad first and catching up with Better Call Saul.
The final movie recommendation for the week is Someone Great, also on Netflix, which is a female buddy meets romantic comedy film. It’s about a music journalist who splits with her boyfriend and has one last blast with her mates before her move to San Francisco to take up her dream job writing for Rolling Stone magazine.
Netflix, YouTube, Google Play
Out And About
A couple of Sydney-based exhibitions to report back on this week. Living Languages is a fascinating exhibit that explores many First Nations’ languages across NSW and the ACT. It marks the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Language in 2019. For thousands of generations First Nations people thrived across this vast continent using hundreds of unique languages and dialects. The exhibit takes place on Gadigal country and extends to the far north coast of NSW, through the Northern tablelands and down to the ACT in the south. The exhibition brings Aboriginal people to the fore as the true authorities on their languages. The exhibit celebrates some of the extraordinary language revitalisation work taking place across NSW.
NSW State Library, Free, Until May 2020
The 1960s, 70s and 80 were decades of social activism in Australia and it’s captured in the Sedition exhibition. Politics came to life on the streets during public demonstrations and posters became powerful protest tools. Sydney became a thriving poster-making scene from the late 1960s. Issues like the Vietnam War, Aboriginal land rights, the women’s movement, gay and lesbian rights, public health, education and the environment all emerged as important social problems for people. This exhibit displays some wonderfully inventive and clever posters that provide a unique insight into the extraordinary visual culture of social activism during this period.
Sedition – The Art of Agitation
NSW State Library, Free, Until 1 December 2019
On the Interwebs
There are a lot of dead man hanging around New York’s subway system. To make the point, a new ‘City of Women’ map of New York has been created which renames each of New York’s 424 subway stops after famous women who lived, worked or reveled there. Grab the train at Cardi B and get off at Grace Jones for a change.
As a young Broad, the way to earn extra pocket money was cash a can. In 2019, you can bring in extra money in the age of ‘AirBnB’ for everything. Wired has a good take on the art of renting out our extra space and spare capacity online.
Ever woken up and wondered ‘what’s the point’? It can’t just be the Broad feeling a little existential in these strange times. If you have, then you might enjoy this piece from the Paris Review by Michael Chabon who ruminates on that very question and considers how art can help us navigate the world.
A music tip
Check out Australian three-piece band Dyson-Stringer-Cloher who have just released their first album. The group’s consists of three wonderful female musos, Mia Dyson, Liz Stringer and Jen Cloher, all fab artists in their own right, who have come together for their first self-titled album.
Classic Book: Alias Grace
This week’s classic book is inspired by the Booker Prize, not surprisingly. The Broad brings you Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood as the classic book. The novel was first published in 1996 and is a work of historical fiction, based on the notorious 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery. Atwood blends in a fictional psychiatrist to the novel, who attempts to asses Grace to determine if she’s a criminal or a hysteric. It rests on the power of credibility, female subjugation and temptation. It won the Canadian Giller prize and if you’ve read above you’ll know if was adopted for TV by Netflix in 2017.
Classic Album: Rumours
The classic album this week is Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, released by the band in 1977. It’s reputedly the sixth best selling album of all time in the US, with a sales tally of a staggering 20 million. The classic line-up of Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham along with John McVie and Christine McVie gave us songs like Don’t Stop, Go Your Own Way and Dreams. The Broad can’t mention The Mac without a nod to Gypsy, although not on Rumours. And the acoustic version for the Netflix series of the same name is almost better because it’s slower. And the TV series with Naomi Watts is good too.