FRANK HOLLENTERBY and the Granta Under Forty List
Exciting as it is to see so many well-deserved names on the brand-spanking-new Granta list (of the most promising young British novelists under 40) one can’t help but feel that – as in decades gone past – the list has allowed itself to be dominated by the “traditional” novel.
Not, that is, traditional in form per se; the presence of such a diverse set of writers as Xiaolu Guo (whose A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers certainly knocked me for six), the always engaging and promising Tahmima Anam and the inestimable Jenni Fagan proves that much.
But in the sense of the requirement (implied or obliged) for a text based, “written down” novel – bound forever to floppy old pieces of paper or the softly illuminated words of the kindle – we might as well be looking at oh-so-many Victorian baggy monsters. At its furthest reaches perhaps there is Adam Thirlwell – whose playful Kapow! so delighted and upset critics last year (it even left Steven Poole in the Guardian “queasy”, poor fellow) – but that, alas, is about it. It’s a sad sad missed opportunity.
So – no suggestion of absolutely under-40 Asante Lannaway (just 19), whose inherently unpublishable “ice” novel Far From The Ha-Ha-Ha last year (painstakingly carved from thirteen slabs of frozen “thought water”) left this critic utterly brainsmacked.
Not even a movement in the direction of the purely verbal “shout-shout” novelists working out of the voiceandshout commune in Perthshire (Clara Waheed, Gregor Fallenite and Tim Gallaway-Hunter spring to mind). Equally, the last three novels of Andycandy – Four Weeks for Grubby Man in 2012, The Lost Side of Yours / Mine Heart and Investments for the Party both in 2011 – written in washable pen on the readers’ own hands and body (readable by one reader once) would have been nice. Any one of these names on the list, or at least a dozen more, would have shown a little bit of courage and innovation that could genuinely push “the novel” onwards.
Nonetheless, all in all, a really good list.