Shuggie Bain’s tale tells us that the Booker prize has matured
A Scot’s success led to uproar in 1994 – but not this year, with the triumph of Douglas Stuart. Maybe the award is growing up
Representation in fiction: why does it matter? The reasons are legion, and obvious. If, for example, you grow up reading books in which you see nobody who looks – either literally or figuratively – like you, then there are consequences. It shapes your idea of a default citizen, of the value of who and what is written about, and of the hierarchy of imaginative possibility. And if – as artists and those who follow them largely believe – the imagination should be a place of liberation and equality, in which language and ideas are the only currencies worth anything, that is a problem.
It was for Douglas Stuart, whose debut novel Shuggie Bain won the Booker prize last week. Stuart has followed the classic trajectory of the overnight success: now 44, he wrote his book only after overcoming his internal feelings of illegitimacy – the common anxiety that amounts to an anti-entitlement, a belief that writing novels is for other people – and then saw it rejected by numerous publishers. His life was hardly a bust – he had left his native Glasgow for New York and became an accomplished fashion designer – and yet, he wasn’t a novelist.Continue reading...