[Oct. 28, 2015 UPDATE:] Gov. Dayton declares Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, “Marlon James Day”

[Oct. 13, 2015 UPDATE:] Macalester professor Marlon James has won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, considered one of the most prestigious prizes in literature, for his book A Brief History of Seven Killings. James is the first writer from Jamaica to win in the prize’s 47-year history.

“This is an extraordinary moment for Marlon and for Macalester as well,” said President Brian Rosenberg. “We are exceptionally proud of him, and I know the entire Macalester community joins me in wishing Marlon a heartfelt congratulations.”

More at themanbookerprize.com

Briefhistory246.jpgEnglish Professor Marlon James’ novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, was among more than a dozen winners of the 36th annual American Book Awards that celebrate diversity. It was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for fiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction and a Minnesota Book Award.

The novel also made the 2015 longlist for the The Man Booker Prize for Fiction. James’ novel is among 13 book nominated; he is the first Jamaican-born author to be nominated for the prize.  The winner will be announced in October.

The novel, wrote New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani, “is epic in every sense of the word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal, and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating, and exhausting.”

The novel is anchored by the 1976 assassination attempt on reggae musician Bob Marley, “the singer,” as it explores politics, poverty, gangs, crime, music, and culture in Jamaica, and the relationship between that island country and the United States. The nearly 700-page book includes a vast cast of characters; obligingly, 76 of them are identified in a list at the beginning of the book.

Although a number of characters are based on real people, James told Larry Rohter of the New York Times, “If you are going to read this as history, you’re bound to be disappointed and confounded,” adding that it is “just me being a trickster.”

Born and raised in Jamaica, James writes often in the patois he heard growing up: “Plenty people even in the middle of sufferation going pick the bad they know over the good they can only dream about, because who dream but madman and fool?”

Jonathan Bernstein in Rolling Stone calls it a rock novel because of its musical detail and history. One of the central characters is a journalist for Rolling Stone named Alex Pierce. James, himself a former music critic, teaches literature and creative writing at Macalester.

In the Wall Street Journal online, Tom Nolan calls the novel a “tour de force fictional chronicle of intertwined political and criminal conspiracies stretching from the Caribbean to Manhattan.”

The BBC has also taken note of the compelling new work. “His new novel, set in Jamaica, moves from Montego Bay in 1959 to Kingston in the ’70s to the crack houses of Bushwick in the ’80s and ’90s, on the trail of at least seven murders. … James invokes a stunning range of voices—journalists, politicians, CIA agents, hit men, members of two rival drug syndicates, and a Medellin cartel drug lord,” wrote Jane Ciabattari at bbc.com.

Canada’s The Globe and Mail called the book “a very nearly perfect work; an exquisite blend of form and content.”

James’s 2009 novel, The Book of Night Women, deals with the lives of slaves planning a revolt on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the turn of the 19th century. It won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, a Minnesota Book Award, and the NAACP Image Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

A Brief History of Seven Killings is published by Riverhead Books. It was standing room only at a reading and publication party hosted by Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books on October 1.

This story was originally published on July 21, 2015.

Other News Stories

From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself
New York Times Magazine, Essay by Marlon James

Author Marlon James Discusses his novel with Seth Meyers on NBC

October 13 2015

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