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The silence of Sally Rooney

The silence of Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney fans have reason to be simultaneously chuffed and disappointed. Chuffed because of her freshly published Man Booker longlisted novel Normal People and disappointed because in a recent interview she confessed that she hasn’t written an “official word” since last October. “I get quite demoralised when I think about it, because I enjoyed writing these books [Conversations with Friends and Normal People] so much, and it would have been worth it regardless of whether they were published or if anyone read a word of them.” There was never much chance of that happening. The inactivity though is clearly getting her down: “I may never write another book again”, she says, though what's not clear is if she means it. If she does, she can always fall back on another of her skills. In her early twenties she was Europe’s No 1 student debater.


Another longlistee, Guy Gunaratne, author of In Our Mad and Furious City, recently recalled the proudest moment of his life. “My dad used to tell me this story about when he first came here [from Sri Lanka] and didn’t speak a word of English,” Gunaratne said. “He did night school, but he also used to go into Foyles in Charing Cross Road and pick books off the shelf and just teach himself. He’d go there on his lunch break, sit on the floor, and read. I’d hear this story over and over, growing up. So it was just a beautiful moment when I could go back to Foyles with him, and my mum, and have him pick his son’s book off the shelf. It was a big deal.” It wasn't though just a big deal for Gunaratne. He posted the picture on Twitter and quickly got 40,000 retweets. As he puts it “ the world got involved”.


A fascinating piece by John Mullan, a Man Booker judge in 2009, about the link between Ian McEwan (1998 MB winner) and film, noted that “The prominence of McEwan’s stories on film is striking when his stock elsewhere seems to have fallen.” None of McEwan last four novels have made the MB longlist and nor did he make in on to the recent TLS poll of the “best British and Irish novelists today”. Film adaptations of The Children Act, The Child in Time and On Chesil Beach have all though appeared in the past year. Before them came films of The Cement Garden, The Comfort of Strangers, The Innocent, Enduring Love and Atonement. The reason filmmakers have been so drawn to McEwan's books, says Mullan, is that “No living British novelist has more expertly or more teasingly exposed the machinery of narrative – and made this exposure the essence of the entertainment.” Films, more than novels, rely on story-telling and McEwan's work is all about the “shape of the story”. 


It seems there is more to the colour pink than its pinkness. The current ubiquity of the tint means that it is now known as “millennial pink” and has taken over fashion, interior design, branding and publicity. Next to blush is publishing. A trend-spotter has noticed that “The number of pink books published in the past two years has risen sharply.” Almost all pink dust-jackets belong to books by female authors, but that's ok, it is not girly or prettifying but because (according to “a senior colour editor at the trend-forecasting agency WGSN” – who knew there was such a job?) “From a feminist perspective, pink is being reclaimed. It’s now about expressing unashamed femininity.” Jane Austen and George Eliot have both been given pink covers and the MB longlist plays its part too: the cover of Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room is pink and proud.


As we hit the last couple of weeks before the MB shortlist announcement (20 September) there is still time for a long-odds flutter. At the time of writing, the bookies' favourite is, surprisingly, Nick Drnaso's comic book Sabrina (4/1) closely followed by Michael Ondaatje's Warlight (9/2) and Sally Rooney's Normal People (5/1). Better returns though are offered by Belinda Bauer's Snap, Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room and Sophie Mackintosh's The Water Cure all at 16/1.