Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Behind the Best of the Booker

We’ve written about bibliophile Mariella Frostrup in the past. Frostrup fronts BBC Radio 4’s Open Book program as well as presenting Sky Arts Book Program. She is also one of the judges of the “Best of the Booker” award which will be announced in just a few days. The Independent reports that Frostrup is a real renaissance woman as well as a friend of actor George Clooney:
The Best of the Booker, [is] arguably the most prestigious literary prize ever awarded in this country [Britain]. The winner will be announced on Thursday, once the public has elected the finest of the 41 novels to have won the Booker Prize. Salman Rushdie is favourite with Midnight's Children, and you can vote online now. But there is a catch. Your own preference -- Pi, say, or Amsterdam by Ian McEwan -- may not be available for selection. The contenders have already been cut down to a shortlist of six, by a panel of three judges including Mariella Frostrup.
The article explains how Frostrup’s life became entangled with her love of books which developed into her fronting TV shows, radio and her own journalism:
She grew up in Ireland, in a house full of books. Her mother was an artist from Scotland, and her father a Norwegian who wrote for the Irish Times. He died of alcohol poisoning when she was just 15. Frostrup was still in shock when she found herself living in a squat in Shepherd's Bush. "Despite the posh tones, I had almost nothing. Even when I was partying a lot, I was also driven by the need to pay the bills."

She broke into TV as a film reviewer but expanded into all kinds of arts and discussion shows. Sexism means it will not last, she says -- “look for the women past 40 on mainstream TV” -- but for now she is not above doing a voiceover for Marks & Spencer while Myleene Klass cavorts in a bikini. Books are what keep her on screen: she has been canny enough to parlay a surprise invitation on to the Booker panel in 2000 -- “I was flabbergasted” -- into a leading role in the literary world. Why was she asked? “For the same reason they ask a lot of people who don’t have a direct connection with books: to lend a common touch to the proceedings, in terms of books being reader-friendly as well as wonderfully crafted and important.”
The full article is here. More information on the Man Booker Prize is here. The Best of the Booker will be awarded at the London Literature Festival on July 10th. Look for the longlist for the 2008 Man Booker Prize to be announced at the end of this month. It will be whittled down to a shortlist on September 9th, with the prize itself being awared in mid-October.

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