Bedside Table: What Is Novelist Paul Murray Reading? - The Gloss Magazine

Bedside Table: What Is Novelist Paul Murray Reading?

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023 for ‘The Bee Sting,’ novelist Paul Murray fills us in on what he’s reading now …

“I usually have three or four books going at a time – a novel, some nonfiction, a poetry collection. I just finished Birnam Wood, by Eleanor Catton. I was a big fan of her historical Booker-winning epic The Luminaries, and before that, her ingenious hall-of-mirrors-in-theatre-school The Rehearsal. But neither prepared me for her new one, set in Catton’s native New Zealand. Birnam Wood is an activist group, composed mostly of moralising twenty-somethings who do things like plant rogue vegetable patches on disused land. But when they get themselves embroiled with an American tech baron who says he wants to help them, Catton has a lot of fun with the infighting and performative idealism that bedevil good causes, and indeed with the evil billionaire, who has layers of villainy we don’t expect. It’s brilliantly plotted – digging into the intractable horrors of climate change, which so many novels ignore – and absolutely gripping. It had me hooked until the very last line.

The Habsburgs by Martyn Rady is like mainlining history. The Habsburgs were very much the tech billionaires of their day, i.e. underhand, paranoid, relentlessly power-hungry, and their route to the top took in document forgery and prodigious intermarriage. They had the afterlife sewn up too: when they died, Habsburg rulers’ remains were divided in three (heart, intestines, and body) and put in different churches to maximise prayers and speed them to heaven.

Now I’m undeniably middle-aged, I find myself doing that thing of buying expensive versions of things I had in my 20s. I’m about halfway through the box set of Neil Gaiman’s comic Sandman and it’s totally worth it – alternately dreamy and terrifying. Gaiman’s imagination is boundless and a joy to get lost in.”

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray, published by Hamish Hamilton, is shortlisted in the Booker Prize 2023.


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