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Interview with Fiction Judge – Dr Alex Lawrie

Interview with Fiction Judge - Dr Alex Lawrie
This year’s James Tait Black Prize for fiction is Olivia Laing’s novel Crudo. The book is set in the summer of 2017, against the backdrop of rising political tension on both sides of the Atlantic. So for instance, Olivia Laing quotes some tweets from Donald Trump throughout the novel, which talk about white supremacy in Charlottesville. We’ve also got the director of the FBI, James Comey, being fired. We have the Brexit crisis over here, the NHS under Jeremy Hunt. These sort of anxiety-inducing global events are the backdrop to our protagonist, Kathy Acker’s, own anxiety in the run up to her wedding towards the end of the summer. I think what’s really interesting about it is, it wasn’t edited at all.
And Olivia Laing committed herself to writing a certain amount each day. And so that gives us a really kind of raw slice of that summer 2017, a sort of unedited snapshot of the way in which that summer panned out. We had a lot of very, very strong entries this year. Then our short list was kind of even stronger, which then makes our next stage of selection even more difficult. So we reread the novel several times over the summer. But I’m really pleased that we came up with this winner.
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