Booker coverage continues; Didion excerpt

Stephanie Merritt describes Booker nominee Damon Galgut in a brief profile. Here’s an excerpt:

A slight, wiry figure, Galgut speaks with a clarity that must be the legacy of his drama training, and exudes a calm attributable to his obsession with yoga. He grew up in Pretoria in a family well-established in the judiciary, but at the age of six fell critically ill with cancer, an experience fictionalised in his second novel, Small Circle of Beings, in which, with extraordinary boldness for a 25-year-old, he wrote from the perspective of the sick child’s mother.

In another Booker shortlist interview, Zoë Heller “is generously reckless in what she tells [the interviewer], the opposite of someone policing every phrase.”

From the first chapter of Didion’s Where I Was From:

These women in my family would seem to have been pragmatic and in their deepest instincts clinically radical, given to breaking clean with everyone and everything they knew. They could shoot and they could handle stock and when their children outgrew their shoes they could learn from the Indians how to make moccasins. “An old lady in our wagon train taught my sister to make blood pudding,” Narcissa Cornwall recalled. “After killing a deer or steer you cut its throat and catch the blood. You add suet to this and a little salt, and meal or flour if you have it, and bake it. If you haven’t anything else to eat, it’s pretty good.” They tended to accommodate any means in pursuit of an uncertain end. They tended to avoid dwelling on just what that end might imply. When they could not think what else to do they moved another thousand miles, set out another garden: beans and squash and sweet peas from seeds carried from the last place. The past could be jettisoned, children buried and parents left behind, but seeds got carried. They were women, these women in my family, without much time for second thoughts, without much inclination toward equivocation, and later, when there was time or inclination, there developed a tendency, which I came to see as endemic, toward slight and major derangements, apparently eccentric pronouncements, opaque bewilderment and moves to places not quite on the schedule.


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