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Thursday, 17 May 2007


The British bookshop chain Waterstone's has just turned 25, and to celebrate this anniversary, they've released a list of "25 authors for the future". "This is a list for the ordinary reader who goes into our shops, not for those who follow literary trends," says the chairman of the selection panel, and the Granta "Best of Young British Novelists" it isn't. It is a commercial list, to put it bluntly--a list of 25 writers Waterstone's expects to make a lot of money from in coming decades--but it isn't devoid of literary merit. It includes--alongside authors of children's books, genre fiction, and food books--writers who have been nominated for and won prestigious literary prizes, and attracted critical acclaim. (Here are notes on all 25 from the Independent.)

Commentators in the British literary press are already working up a sweat about the whole exercise, but what I find most interesting are the Caribbean connections of one--maybe two--of the writers on the list. Nick Stone, a writer of crime fiction, appears to be half Haitian, descended on his mother's side from "one of Haiti’s oldest families, the Aubrys", and he spent part of his childhood in Haiti; his novel Mr Clarinet is set there. And Jon McGregor--whose first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, was long-listed for the Booker Prize five years ago--was born in Bermuda. The last Bermudan writer I spoke to said she certainly thought of herself as Caribbean, but I'm not sure the sentiment is widespread. Anyway, I hadn't heard of McGregor before, but I'm fascinated by what I've been reading today about his fiction, and I'll probably grab one of his books next time I see it in a shop. So, in at least one small instance, the Waterstone's list is having the intended effect....

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