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Old 10-29-2013, 04:52 PM   #1
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Default Booker award winner loves Lightfoot

Earlier this month, Canadian-born New Zealander Eleanor Catton became the youngest writer to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize for her second novel, The Luminaries.

The novel, a literary adventure story set amidst the New Zealand gold rush, has been praised widely, with much made of its unique structure. The novel is broken up into 12 sections, meant to mirror the 12 signs of the zodiac.

On a recent tour stop in Vancouver, Catton visited CBC Music to discuss the links between writing and music, her appreciation of Canadian icons Gordon Lightfoot and Margaret Atwood and how she's been connected to fellow Kiwi Lorde.

The structure of the book is quite unique, 12 parts that descend in length. What sparked your interest in using the astrological system as structural tool?
It was born out of an interest in the word "fortune," because the book is set during the New Zealand gold rush. The idea that this word means a great deal of money, and also fate. Playing with the doubleness of that, I got into the idea of astrology as a system ... and the more that I read about it, the more impressed I became with how incredibly psychological it is as a system. It has 19 parts; twelve of these are fixed.

Are there parallels to be drawn between a structure like this, and creative systems such as those used in musical composition?

I think the comparison to music is really interesting. Music has a lot in common with astrology. In the Western scale, from a C to the C in the octave above, there are 12 semitones. Also, there are seven natural notes C, B, A, D, E, F, G. So already we have an interplay between 12 chromatic tones and then seven tones in the key signature.

I felt in writing the book, it was very like what a musician must feel. In improvising, you've got your scale, you've got the notes that are going to sound good with other notes, the intervals that are going to sound good. But you've also got all the chromatic possibilities, the possibilities of sounding dissident, of being unexpected.

It's an interesting question, this question about structure and how much structure informs the reader's experience. Fiction is supposed to be immersive and supposed to be entertaining and narrative, so structures have to be buried a little bit. If they come foregrounded too much, it stops being fiction and starts being poetry something more concrete and out of time.

With your win, people were quick to claim the fact that you were born here. What's your relationship to Canada?

I'm the rogue Canadian in my family I just happened to be born here while my parents were studying here. But the fact that I had your citizenship was a big part of my identity growing up. My parents were really emphatic about making me study French, and always talking about the fact that when I grew up I could potentially go to university in Canada. It was always on my radar as something that belonged to me in a way that wasn't the same as others in my family.

Are there certain Canadian authors that you particularly enjoy reading?

Anne Michaels for sure, and, Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood. Margaret Atwood was the author who took me out of children's literature and guided me towards adult literature. When I was 12 or 13 I first read Alias Grace and The Handmaid's Tale. They were books that were difficult enough and they challenged me enough to make me feel proud to have read them. I remember steering the course of my reading away from the children's section of the library after encountering her. I met her in Dublin this year, of all places. We were having a whisky in the bar.

Do you listen to music while you write?

Yes, I do. But only songs that I know very well. Often I listen to songs on repeat for days and days at a time. There's something hypnotic or meditative, and it mirrors the way that I am putting the sentence together, going back over the same phrases again and again.

And this is something that's not very cool, but by far the most played artist on my computer is actually Gordon Lightfoot.

That's extremely cool!

You think so? Well, yes, Gordon Lightfoot. "Canadian Railway Trilogy" is way up there, and I'm not saying that to earn Canadian points. And Fleetwood Mac.

New Zealand music is in the spotlight these days, thanks to the young singer-songwriter Lorde.

Yes, it's been really wonderful actually. Our names have been paired together in New Zealand a lot over the past month. I think she received her Silver Scroll [APRA Award] on the same day the Booker Prize was announced. I feel like it's me and Lorde against the world.

I really rate her music. She's her own person. Nobody made her; she's not the product of any corporate machine. She's a really good writer, she's a good lyricist and her songs are catchy as hell. It's funny that people are putting me in the same category as her, because her mom is a friend of mine.

Are there other New Zealand acts you'd recommend?

There's a band called Golden Horse that I really like. And a band called the Phoenix Foundation, which is similar in style to early Arcade Fire.

Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries is available widely. She appears as part of IFOA in Toronto on Tuesday night.

Follow Brad Frenette on Twitter: @BradFrenette

posted by Brad Frenette on Oct 28, 2013
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Old 10-30-2013, 04:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: BOOKER prize winner loves Lightfoot

Ellie Catton's significant other happens to be my nephew. I've met her a few times, alas they live in NZ and don't get to the US much. Ellie's a very talented young woman and I'm anxious to get started on her new book as soon as I finish the one I'm currently reading. I introduced my nephew to Lightfoot and Dylan a long time ago and it's nice to see some of that found it's way to Ellie's computer. Although I have no doubt she would have discovered his music on her own one way or another. She's also a proud Diamondhead, so that makes her ok in my book, no pun intended. The Luminaries won the Booker award for a good reason and if you want a novel that challenges you, I recommend you pick up a copy. I read the first chapter in galley form and was hooked.
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Old 11-14-2013, 07:35 PM   #3
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Default Re: Booker award winner loves Lightfoot

Ellie just won Canada's highest literary prize:

TORONTO - Ontario-born author Eleanor Catton has followed up her Man Booker Prize with a Governor General's Literary Award.

The Canada Council for the Arts announced this morning that the 28-year-old is the winner in the fiction category for her novel, "The Luminaries."

Last month, Catton became the youngest author to win the Booker for the mystery story, which is set amid a gold rush in New Zealand — where the writer moved with her family at age six from London, Ont.

This year's winner of the Governor-General's Award for non-fiction is "Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page" by Vancouver-based Sandra Djwa.

Katherena Vermette of Winnipeg claimed the English-language poetry prize for "North End Love Songs," while the drama honour went to "Fault Lines: Greenland — Iceland — Faroe" by Nicolas Billon, who was born in Ottawa, grew up in Montreal and now lives in Toronto.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston will present the awards, each worth $25,000, on Nov. 28th in Ottawa.

"The Luminaries" (McClelland & Stewart) is Catton's second novel after 2008's "The Rehearsal," which won the First Novel Award.

The structure and characters of the 832-page story revolve around astrological charts from the year in which the tale is set.

A peer assessment committed appointed by the Canada Council to judge the fiction finalists called it "an entire narrative universe with its own mysterious cosmology."

"This exhilarating feat of literary design dazzles with masterful storytelling," the committee — which included Toronto's Kyo Maclear, Beth Powning of Markhamville, N.B., and Edmonton's Thomas Wharton — said in a statement.

"Each character is a planet — complex and brilliantly revealed. Precise sensual prose illuminates greed, fear, jealousy, longing — all that it means to be human."

Catton lives in an apartment in Auckland with her partner, American-born poet Steven Toussaint, and teaches creative writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology.

In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, she said her Booker win — which came with a 50,000-pound (C$80,000) purse and an international spotlight — "has had a kind of catapulting effect" on her life.

But she hoped it wouldn't alter things too much.

"What I want to say is I hope that nothing in my life that I care about changes — you know, my relationships with my family and my friends and my work. I hope that that stays the same or develops in its own way, according to its own speed.

"One thing I don't want is for this to get in the way of my relationship with myself."

The winner for children's literature, text was Toronto-based Teresa Toten for "The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B" (Doubleday Canada), in which the protagonist is dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder.

In the children's illustration category, the winner was Toronto's Matt James for "Northwest Passage" (Groundwood Books), which is told through the lyrics of Canadian singer/songwriter Stan Rogers' ballad.

The translation winner was Donald Winkler of Montreal for "The Major Verbs" (Signal Editions), a translation of a book by Quebec's Pierre Nepveu.

The publisher of each winning book receives $3,000 to support promotional activities.

Non-winning finalists receive $1,000.

This year, 978 titles in the English-language categories and 624 titles in the French-language categories were submitted.

Read more:
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Old 11-14-2013, 07:39 PM   #4
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Default Re: Booker award winner loves Lightfoot

I'm on the waitlist at the library...
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