It seemed apt to be reading Kevin MacNeil’s novel The Brilliant & Forever the week of the announcement of this year’s Man Booker Prize. The hoopla and hurrah that surrounds such awards was felt more keenly than usual due to Glasgow writer Graeme Macrae Burnet’s being shortlisted for the novel His Bloody Project, published by Scottish independent Saraband Books. As with those heady days when Scotland made football World Cup Finals, here was someone to cheer for.
With wall-to-wall media coverage, including prime-time TV shows detailing the runners and riders as well as the result, it can be argued that the importance of winning, or being listed, while understandable is out of proportion. The danger is that an award itself becomes more important than the books and the writing. But while the importance of the Man Booker, and others of its ilk, may appear to be increasing year on year it’s nothing when compared to the high-stakes involved with ‘The Brilliant & Forever’.
Tellingly set on an island, a place where “everyone – human and alpaca alike – wants to be a writer”, the novel’s title refers to a yearly literary event and competition “where reputations are made and writers unmade”. The stakes are high, and those nominated have to compete for a panel of judges, as well as the all-important ‘People’s Decision’. The whole population attends, and bets are placed on who wins, and who may lose. Continue reading