I’m delighted that The Glasgow Coma Scale has been longlisted for the Green Carnation Prize, which recognises the work of LGBT writers. The thirteen books are drawn from all manner of genres and forms, from contemporary to historical, essays to a doorstopper of a novel. There are books in translation, and books from small independent presses as well as publishing’s big-hitters — it’s a properly inclusive list. And here they are:
Of the twelve that aren’t mine, I’ve so far only read Kirsty Logan’s collection of contemporary fairytales The Rental Heart (Salt) and Neel Mukherjee’s majestically assured second novel The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus), and I’m looking forward to delving into reading the other longlistees’ works. Some, like Kerry Hudson’s Thirst (Chatto & Windus) and Niven Govinden’s All the Days and Nights (The Friday Project), I’ve been meaning to get round to; others, such as Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt’s Invisible Love (Europa Editions), are completely new to me. That’s properly exciting: prizes like these do bring to wider attention books that might otherwise simply disappear between the cracks (I’m writing this just after Super Thursday, in which the ‘big titles’ aimed at the Christmas market are released en masse: good luck negotiating the vast stacks of these 315 big-name books in your local bookshop). Just as I’m looking forward to discovering new favourites among the list, I hope people will encounter The Glasgow Coma Scale for the first time because of the longlist.
Here’s a funny thing. The Green Carnation prize was founded by books blogger Simon Savidge and author Paul Magrs, who had ruminated on the idea of a prize for gay writers (it expanded in 2012 to include submissions from the whole LGBT community). Paul Magrs’s novel Could it Be Magic (Chatto & Windus, 1997) was one of the books which, back when I was in my late teens and desperate to write a book of my own, showed me that a novel could do anything it bloody well liked: if you wanted to write a book set on a Durham-area housing estate in which one of the characters gives birth to a leopard child from a pouch in his leg, then you could — and it could be brilliant. Indirectly, this led to my decision to apply to the Creative Writing MA course at the University of East Anglia, which was where Magrs was teaching at the time (he taught the undergrad course; then Poet Laureate Andrew Motion coordinated the postgrad version). And that was where I met fellow longlistee (and current Man Booker Prize favourite) Neel Mukherjee, and Paul Murray, and a bunch of other terrific writers. So it feels somewhat as if something has come full circle!
It also makes me inexpressibly happy that Katy Manning was one of the prize’s inaugural judges back in 2010. Those who know the name will understand.
You can learn more about the Green Carnation Prize 2014 via their Twitter, here. As of this year, Foyles has lent its support to the prize and, by happy coincidence, they’re currently offering The Glasgow Coma Scale at a sensational price.