Tag Archives: Rohinton Mistry

“I Don’t Deserve This Award – But Then I Have Arthritis And I Don’t Deserve That Either!”………..My Book Of The Year Awards!……….

……….Jack Benny I hope you noticed the nice mix in the titles for this post – the classic false modesty from the comedian Jack Benny followed by my own unlimited arrogance and vanity in announcing “my book of the year awards!!!!”

In a way though starting this post with Jack Benny is rather appropriate – his first words on Ed Sullivan’s radio show in the US in the early thirties was supposed to have been “This is Jack Benny talking. There will now be a short pause while you sit at home thinking –  ‘who cares?!”.

It just fits perfectly for:-

“This is my Book Of The Year Awards” post and there will now be a gap of at least two lines…

……….while you have a chance to think  – who the hell cares!!!!!

But if you reached this line you must be intrigued, so stick with it till the end  – you won’t be disappointed!

Well…..actually….. you might be disappointed at the end, but I’ll leave a couple more empty lines so I can think “So you’re disappointed! What the hell do I care?!”

And so my awards! I’ve read a lot of good books this year, heard some great music, seen some great gigs – and eaten some lovely pies! So here are my awards for 2012!

1. TV Programme Location of the Year

Waterloo Road
Memories – like the Corridors of My Mind!

The award goes to BBC’s “Waterloo Road” which is now filmed at “Greenock Academy”, my old school in Scotland. It allows me to indulge in spotting familiar walls, corridors and pupil toilets – which instead of impressing my daughter actually bores her rigid!

If you can get over the fact that they moved the school from England to Scotland and took all the kids with them into a sort of cult-cum-boarding unit, then the best of all is that while the BBC have tarted the building up for the fictional school, the quality of the teaching in the fictional school looks just as shite as I remember it being in the real school!!!

2. Book Week Of The Year

Much as I enjoyed the Muriel Spark Reading Week, the award for me goes to the Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week, which Annabel’s House of Books hosted back in June of this year. I’d not read any of Beryl Bainbridge’s stuff before-hand – I loved it – quirky and sharp and just wonderful. It turned me from a Beryl-virgin to a Beryl-lover almost overnight!

3. The ‘Well Bugger Me I Didn’t Know That!’ Award for 2012

Birdie BowersThanks to book blogs I read quite a bit about the centenary of Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1912. And through that I discovered that Birdie Bowers, who accompanied Captain Scott and was one of those who died alongside him at the end, originally came from my home town of Greenock in Scotland. We seem to make little of the connection which is odd to say the least as Greenock isn’t exactly bustling with well known explorers, actors, sportsmen, politicians or well known anythings! Anyway it led me to read a bit about his life – truly amazing man!

4. Best Bit Of Poetry Learned Off By Heart This Year Award

I’ve loved several new collections this year but my favourite was Seamus Heaney’s “Human Chain!”. And from the poem ‘Route 101’ I loved learning the following lines (and love boring people to death reciting them!)

“In a stained front-buttoned shopcoat / Sere brown piped with crimson / Out of the Classics bay into an aisle /  Smelling of dry rot and disinfectant / She emerges, absorbed in her coin count / Eyes front, right hand at work / In the slack marsupial vent / Of her change – pocket, thinking what to charge / For a used copy of Aeneid VI. / Dustbreath bestirred in the cubicle mouth / I inhaled as she slid my purchase / Into a deckle edged brown paper bag”

5. The “Terrific” Award (for books that aren’t my book of the year but came bloody close and so deserve again the accolade of my favourite word!)

Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller and The Museum Of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk were both

Terrific 1

A Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry were both

Terrific 2

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Books One, Two and Three) were all

Terrific 3

HHhH by Laurent Binet and If This Is A Man by Primo Levi were both

Terrific 4

Heartburn by Norah Ephron and The Art Of Fielding by Chad Harbach were both

Terrific 5

6. The “I’m Really Sorry But I Thought This Was Bloody Awful” Book Of The Year Award

Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From The Goon Squad”. I just didn’t get it! I guess I’m not clever enough. Sorry Jen!

7. The ‘I Love Guy Garvey Of Elbow More Than Anyone Else Does’ Award

Guy GarveyWith apologies to my mate Steve Smith in Thailand, who fancies himself as a big Elbow fan but can’t be taken seriously as he chose to desert Guy and go live the life of Riley on the beaches of Thailand teaching people to dive (get a proper job you old fart!) and with my apologies to Guy Garvey’s girlfriend, the writer Emma Unsworth,  the award for the person who loves Guy Garvey more than anyone else does, goes to – ME!

8. The Album Of The Year

Dead easy – the beautiful, wonderful, gorgeous “Mid Air” by Paul Buchanan – have a quick listen!

9. Gig Of The Year

This is harder – I’ve seen Elbow a couple of times this year but I have to say we were absolutely awe-struck by the magnificent Bruce Springsteen at the Isle of Wight festival – we watched it knee deep in mud and didn’t give a shit! Truly wonderful!


10. Dive Of The Year

Suarez1This is a special category for my partner, my daughter and her family who are all Liverpool fans. The award goes to the Suarez2Olympic medal-winning last gasp effort from Tom Daley!

But for the runner-up you can choose any of half a dozen or more spectacular dives from that muppet Luiz Suarez!

11. Pie Of The Year

MandS pieThere’s nothing to beat Marks and Spencers! They have the gorgeous Twiggy in their ads, the fabulous sound of Dervla Kirwen doing the voiceover for the food commercials and their pies are great. This year my favourite was the individual Steak and Cornish IPA Ale pies – so fantastic if you gave me a choice between Twiggy, Dervla or the pie, it would be the pie every time!!!!!!!!!!!!!

12. Shite Gig But Chilli Con Carne Of The Year Award

We were unfortunate enough to see Coldplay at the Emirates earlier in the year – bloody awful! I should have known. I saw Coldplay when they were starting out, just after the Yellow album was released – they were at a lovely intimate venue at Brixton Academy – and yet they were bloody awful then as well! However we left the gig early and discovered the Chilli of The Year, washed down with Guinness, at a lovely little pub in Finsbury Park!

13. Comeback Of The Year

Roy 1This is a close run thing between two of my favourite men of books – the mercurial genius that is Roy Race, scourge of every team on the planet in his role as Roy Of The Rovers – and the mercurial genius that is Detective Inspector John Rebus, scourge of every criminal and low-life in Edinburgh and it’s environs in Iain Rankin’s novels- and as a Glaswegian it’s my job to say disparaging things about the good folk of Edinburgh! But since I thought Iain Rankin’s ‘Standing In Another Man’s Grave’ was brilliant, the winner for me is John Rebus! Plus as he has won it allows me to have a couple of pints and a couple of whiskies to honour his achievement! If Roy Of The Rovers had won I’d have been forced to go down the park, beat all the kids at “3 and you’re in!” and then do at least 100 on keepie-uppie – and I’m much more of a five beers than a five-a-side man these days!

14. And finally, my Book Of The Year

I’ve read so many that have been terrific but one just noses ahead – not by much, but by enough to be the read of the year for me – the beautiful story of Jack and Mabel in The Snow Girl by Eowyn Ivey.

The Snow Child

Now I’d said earlier in the year that I would choose a book of the year – and in my own version of the Costa Prize, that I’d buy the winning author a coffee. And I’d like to be true to my word – so if Eowyn Ivey ever reads this and fancies collecting this illustrious prize, I’ll meet her any week day by the Cafe Nero coffee stall in Victoria Station – I’m in the queue most mornings around half past seven – the lattes are on me Eowyn!

And having started with the acerbic wit of Jack Benny on awards, I’d like to end with the acerbic wit of my partner. On the day that the New Year Honours were announced she initially amazed me by saying she’d love to be nominated for an award – and when I expressed astonishment as this didn’t fit with her strong principles and said “Really???????????????????” she replied – “Yeah! So I could then tell them to stick their award up their arse!!!!!!” – That’s my girl!

So if Eowyn Ivey tells me where to put my offer of a free latte as my Book Of The Year, I’ll understand completely!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What I Thought Of……….A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

I’m a “Johnny Come Lately” to this magnificent novel which was nominated for the Booker in 1996. I’d never heard of it until I saw a book programme on TV, on which the Scottish TV and radio presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli spoke about it with such passion and love – consequently I bought it on the strength of that and I owe him such a debt of gratitude for otherwise I’d have missed this wonderful novel.

It tells the story of a group of four people whose lives become connected and inter-linked in the midst of the “Emergency” declared by Mrs Gandhi in India in the 70’s. Their everyday lives and experiences are twisted and shaped by the political crisis in their country and in particular the madnesses of the government in dealing with the political situation. Om and Ishvar are tailors working for and connected to Dina Dilal, a widow trying to make a living, which includes offering lodging to the final main character, the student Maneck.

The book is exceptionally well written. There is real tragedy and poverty and despair in some of the book and in the lives of the characters yet it’s never sentimental or over-powering. The characters were so well crafted that I cared passionately about each of them – I found that I really did feel very high and low they experienced. There’s such poverty in their lives but that’s in the material sense – their values and beliefs and hopes and fears give their lives such richness at the same time as the poverty in which some of them find themselves.

If Gandhi had done Celebrity Big Brother…………………!

From the start I should state – I think Big Brother is awful – in all its forms! But I’ve seen it – how could I avoid it living in a house where my family love reality shows and “dramality”!!! (In case you don’t know “dramality” is apparent a reality show which is actually made up and isn’t reality at all – I hope you are keeping up here!). One of the things I hate most about it is the intrusion it allows into the lives of some people who don’t seem, well very nice really! And even worse it seems to me that it increasingly sets out to exploit and magnify any mental health issues that an individual faces – any time I walk through the room when it’s on there is one celebrity crying, one celebrity shouting, and all the others are split into two camps supporting either Crying Celebrity or Shouting Celebrity! But what the hell has Celebrity Big Brother got to do with books you may ask (that’s a hint – if you aren’t asking that you should be – it’s a sort of “stage direction!”)

I come to it from reading my current book “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry, set in India at the time Mrs Gandhi declared a state of emergency. The book is wonderful – but she’s just the most god-awful creature it seems to me. The book is beautiful to read and it’s somehow very calm and understated – and yet almost each time I put it down I’m consumed with rage at the treatment of the main characters! At from there that got me thinking about how some books have exposed some well-known names and faces to a kind of “literary” Big Brother scrutiny for me – which they’ve not come out of well!

Inevitably, as they are meant to, good biographies, and sometimes fiction, can be a such a thoroughly transparent window to a sportsman or politician or celebrity, showing you more than you could ever have glimpsed or even thought existed when you watched them perform or talk or play (or in the case of politicians maybe the most apt phrase is “watched them bullshit!”). It seems to me this can be really quite negative characteristics and yet it feels absolutely right – in everything I’ve ever read about Eric Cantona for instance he comes across with a swaggering arrogance and supreme self-confidence – and that’s as it should be for me as I want Eric to be arrogant and supremely confident – I’d feel cheated somehow if he was anything less! However sometimes books show you negative things that clash so violently with my perceptions, they alter my perspective entirely.

Years ago I read Bob Geldof’s book “Is That It?”. I so wanted to enjoy it, like it and like him. But I hated it. I expected him to come across as dogged and unorthodox and challenging and with a swagger because like almost everybody else I was so impressed by what he’d done with “Live Aid!”. But I found the book sickeningly self-congratulatory and somehow a bit “Oh wow is me and look what I’ve achieved against all the odds etc, etc, etc”. It didn’t put me off Bob mind you – I bought albums by Bob Geldof and The Vegetarians of Love and I doubt there are many people who can say that!! Anyway for me – on a literary Celebrity Big Brother, Bob’s autobiography would be one of those in there to gather the unpopular vote!

Where I work, a book group started up at one point and among the first books suggested was a book about Gandhi – I think it was called “All Men Are Brothers!”. It turned out to be the worst experience of my reading life – it was truly the most awful book I’ve ever read. It’s essentially a collection of Gandhi sayings and quotes and comments on everything in life from the big ideas to the everyday minutiae! But beyond being an awful read, it showed me a side of Gandhi that I had known nothing about (admittedly most of my perception had been gathered via history in school and watching Richard Attenborough’s film!). But I found myself intensely disliking Gandhi – not in terms of what he did on behalf of India but for his attitudes and what seemed to me often small-mindedness in relation to things like his wife and women in general. So, if there was a literary Celebrity Big Brother I think Gandhi’s book would create the biggest shock for the watching millions and he’d be my tip for the one who goes into the “house” as the most popular public figure and who comes out of the house to the odd boo and catcalls!

By contrast the celebrity whose book would go in a villain and then emerge as much more likeable than I’d expected would be the late politician Alan Clark. I dislike his politics and again his attitudes to things like his wife and women – yet I really enjoyed reading the Alan Clark Diaries – so much so I’ve read them twice!

But who would win a literary Celebrity Big Brother biography contest for me – well it would be no contest – Eric Cantona by a mile!