The Man Booker Prize longlist was announced on Thursday and, despite being well on the way to a hundred books so far this year, I’ve read only two of the thirteen. Much as I enjoyed Hot Milk and Lucy Barton, a few months on they don’t feel as mind blowing as Richard Flanagan’s 2014 winner. Then I’m worrying that I’m falling into the trap of judging male writers and subjects as more deserving than female. Then I wake up on Friday to find I’ve made the shortlist of six for the Polari Prize, the one where gender might not be so black and white. (I’m still reeling from the shock, but I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this in a later post.)
Writer Charli Mills has just established a temporary office in the leaky caravan that has to substitute for a home, so no surprise that she’s rallying the Rough Writers to write a 99-word story on that subject. Busy this last couple of weeks with my birthday blog tour, I haven’t written much fiction aside from these 99-worders and half a short story, so I’m looking to my reading to engage with this one.
Some writers shy away from fictional work while others relish the opportunity to research an alternative career. But the most eccentric and entertaining of my reads this year on the subject, yet with that inevitable grain of truth with which any office worker can identify, has to be Jonas Karlsson’s The Room.
I’m very lucky in my own writing room, which I was able to show virtual visitors around last year as part of my epic blog tour. I considered writing about that, then I thought a figurative office, such as prime minister, might be more fun, especially if I could make it a nonsensical one, or a poisoned chalice. Then I realised I could combine the two: although I can’t condone bullying, after overdosing on promotion lately, I felt more myself after making this up.
“We considered asking Frankie. But he wouldn’t do as good a job as you.”
“But if you think you’re not up to it … After all, it’s quite a responsibility for one so young.”
“The whole office depending on you …”
“But if you did it well, who knows where it might take you.”
Donning the rubber gloves, Nick didn’t feel as upbeat as his new colleagues seemed to think he should. Water gushed from the tap, filling the basin with foam. They’d even given him a badge. CHIEF WASHER UPPER. It wasn’t the office to which he’d aspired.
If you wish, you can read a much more serious short story of mine about rubber gloves on the website Amarillo Bay. Apologies for the scattergun approach of this post, although I imagine you’ve had work memos that were worse. I can assure you that if you choose to sign up to my newsletter you’ll find that rather more organised. Meanwhile, you can catch up on this month’s reviews – a rather respectable eight after some bunching towards the end – by clicking on the image.