A Beacon of Hope for Struggling Writers by Andrew Crofts

The 2018 Booker Prize winner is an inspiring case study for all writers hoping to earn a living from literary fiction. Anna Burns has published three novels over the last eighteen years, all of which have been taken seriously by critics, put in for literary prizes and so forth. Her latest, Milkman, was published by Faber, one of the most prestigious names in independent publishing, and is the one which has taken home the Booker.

In interviews, Anna has very charmingly explained how grateful she is for the prize money, (£52,500 in total), because it means she can come off welfare benefits and will not have to pay any more visits to the food banks of East Sussex.

It is just the sort of fairy tale that the media like, with the same mythical ring to it as the story of J.K. Rowling having to sit in coffee shops to write Harry Potter. We all love a story of rags to riches and hard work eventually being justly rewarded. Folks such as the Society of Authors and ALCS have also been pointing out recently just how tough things are for writers at the moment, with average earnings coming out somewhere around half the minimum wage, and Anna’s former plight illustrates this problem perfectly.

There is also, however, some evidence that the literary world is its own worst enemy. The chairman of the judges on the Booker panel has been repeatedly quoted as saying that Milkman is “not an easy read”, which may add to the appeal of the book for a small proportion of the population but is bound to put off many more. He went on to add that he didn’t find it hard personally because he is a man who is used to reading the Journal of Philosophy.

I have downloaded the book and it is a wonderful read as far as I have got. It’s possible that it will get "harder" later, but I doubt it. If you like your sentences Dan-Brown-short then it might not be to your taste, but it seems to me to be beautiful, fluid and original writing which I would happily recommend to anyone, even those who would probably prefer to bypass the Journal of Philosophy should they come across it in their dentist’s waiting room.

Pure good fortune has meant that the book has coincided with the #MeToo Movement taking a firm grip on global attention, which has further helped to make it sound like a tempting, topical read. 

Faber have reported that they are now printing up hundreds of thousands of copies and I very much hope that readers all over the world will be recommending this book to everyone they know. I would like to see Miss Burns lavished with obscene sums of money, (although I’m guessing her work might not have quite the same merchandising potential as Miss Rowling’s), to reward her for her patience, her faith and the enormous charm with which she fielded impertinent questions from the media. She is a beacon of hope for us all, like the lottery winner who keeps the rest of world buying tickets.   


Jan Needle said…
Thanks for that, Andrew. I've reposted it to my facebook page!
Umberto Tosi said…
Thanks, Andrew. As a formerly destitute, coffee shop writer, I'm eager to read Anna Burns'"Milkman" now, not only because of the prize, but because you've made it sound so appealing in its own right. I've reposted this on my social media pages too.

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