Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Brief History of Seven Killings--the Man Booker Prize Winner for 2015

Just announced--Marlon James has won the Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. Just for you, here's what you need to know about this newest winner of one of the most
prestigious literary prizes out there.

  • Jamaica. The country is as much a character in the book as the humans who populate the book's pages. The novel details the history of an island transitioning from poverty to a nation with tourism, extreme wealth, and little in the way of a middle class before you hit the poverty again. 
  • It's written from the points of view of multiple characters, including a reporter, some gangsters obsessed with Spaghetti Westerns, and the crew in and around a singer who's obviously Bob Marley. 
  • The language--Marlon James does a remarkable job of setting scene and immersing the reader into the island culture, and much of that is accomplished through the dialogue. Characters speak in Jamaican patois, mon. 
    Marlon James
  • There's humor here, even though it's a violent story that flat out tells you people are going to be dying. This isn't A Brief History of Seven Near Misses at the Ladies' Auxiliary (though I'd totally read that book too). These are dangerous streets, but the humanity of the characters and their flaws often make them funny. 
  • Marlon James is from Jamaica. He knows his subject. 
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings also won the American Book Award and has been named to just about every best book list of 2014/2015. 
  • What's it about? Just before the elections in 1976, a group of gunmen raided Bob Marley's mansion, critically wounding the singer. The event was mostly covered up, but a dogged reporter is relentless in tracking down the real story while also covering the island's election cycle. Who were the shooters? Why were they shooting? What's so great about jerk chicken? (No need to read the book to answer that last one; jerk chicken is proof that Jamaica is heaven on earth.)
This year's list of nominees for the Man Booker Prize--A Brief History of Seven Killings, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Satin Island by Tom McCarthy, a personal favorite coming out in the spring called The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota, The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, and A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler--are a stellar crop of novels and a testament to the quality fiction published in the last year. 

By the way, there's a site that will tell you your reggae name, and Gianna's would be Ras Tuff Gong Culture Bong. Yes, you have permission to address Ras as such from here on out. 

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