Tag Archives: Clayton Littlewood

Green Carnation Prize 2013; Winner & Thoughts

On Tuesday afternoon it was announced that Andrew Solomon’s was the latest winner of the Green Carnation Prize with Far From The Tree, a book about exceptional children and celebrates what it means to be human in all its diversity. Chair of the judges, Uli Lenart, has described it as “A work of extraordinary humanity. Life affirming, insightful and profoundly moving. Andrew Solomon continuously makes you reassess what you think. An opus of diversity, resilience and acceptance; Far From The Tree is a book that has the power to make the World a better place.” I have to admit that I am yet to read it though of course it is now high on my TBR pile – I think I might try and read a chapter at a time between fiction reads.

What has been really lovely is that the author himself said this “I am profoundly honored and utterly thrilled to have won this prize.  When I was born, it was a crime, a sin, and a mental illness to be gay; now it is an identity, and a much celebrated one at that, as the very existence of this prize clearly demonstrates.  My book is about how we can use that shift, of which gay people today are the fortunate beneficiaries, as a model for helping others with stigmatized differences to find dignity in them.  I believe with all my heart in a prize that celebrates the particular contributions of gay literature, and that recognizes that human diversity, like species diversity, is necessary to sustain the world as we know and love it.  I am delighted to play any part in putting forward that idea, and I thank the judges with all my heart.”

It is that sort of comment from a writer, which really makes you think, and now many people (myself included) will hopefully go off and read a book that Kerry Hudson says “is the sort of book that makes you grateful to have found it and that remains a gift for a lifetime”. I am up for that, aren’t you? Every year it has been the aim of the prize to highlight brilliant books, some you will have heard of some will be new to you, hopefully you go off and read them. I think the prize has a great track record of that.

GCP Winners

Someone asked me the other day if I felt proud of the prize and the part I had played in setting it up. I had never thought about it like that before, yet taking pictures of all the winners together (like the one above) the other day, I thought ‘yes, I am bloody proud’ but I am also as proud as the people who have taken part and supported it be they readers, publishers, all sorts of folk on social media and most importantly the amazing judges this year are what make the prize so worthwhile. And I would like to personally thank Christopher Bryant, Sarah Henshaw, Kerry Hudson, Clayton Littlewood and Uli Lenart – who should get extra thanks as he chaired amazingly and kept me going through the process – as without them there wouldn’t have been a prize this year. Now I have to get thinking about next year…

Anyway, do go off and read them, winners and long and short listers alike ok? And let me know how you get on with them, it is hearing about people reading them that really makes me beam like a loon! I am hoping some of you already have read some of the winners and shortlisted books though?

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Dirty White Boy – Clayton Littlewood

Sometimes when you know an author of a book you can be really worried when they ask you to do a review. Now I only know a few writers and they know that (with my job in a magazine) if I can do anything to help/promote them I will, I also hope that they know that any review I write will be 100% honest and not be glowing just because I think the sun shines out of their bottom as a person. I would also never put a review up of someone’s debut novel if I thought it was bad… what would that achieve? So Clayton you don’t need to worry I really enjoyed ‘Dirty White Boy’.

Clayton Littlewoods book started life as a blog on myspace, the cult of blogging having led to several book deals it seems to be an area to watch ‘Wife in the North’ and ‘Belle Du Jour’ to name two. Hmmm why would I have two blogs? The blog started when Clayton and his partner rented shop space on Old Compton Street in London and started their clothes store ‘Dirty White Boy’ he started making notes on the people who came in, the crazy landlady, the brothel upstairs and the sights and sounds of a street that never sleeps. This blog got a huge following leading to a column in the London Paper and now the book.

The comparisons it has had made to it are things such as Armistead Maupin and also Samuel Pepys diary but from the noughties. You can see why the comparisons to Tales of the City, his prose is sumptuous and witty and the characters that he tells you all about are fascinating and quirky, plus Old Compton Street and San Francisco are both gay Mecca’s. The comparisons to Pepys are that it’s almost a diary (well I suppose blogs are ‘the new diary’ to a degree) charting the life of London and in particular one of the streets at the heart of it.

The street itself is pretty much the star of the show, the lead character if you will, with all the regular shoppers, tramps, prostitutes at becoming great secondary characters, only they aren’t characters, they are real. I interviewed Clayton recently and had the luck of meeting Pam the Fag Lady who was my favourite of the characters all in all. I also loved Angie the ‘Janice Dickinson-like’ transsexual and the crazy Madame in the upstairs brothel. There was only one aspect I didn’t like so much, running through it all was a love story of complete coincidence, now I believe in coincidence but in the novel for some reason it all matched up a little too neatly especially in the final blog of the book. That and some of the blogs seeming to have been edited in a new order for example Mika didn’t release anything in 2006, I know that’s incredibly picky but it made me come out of the moment randomly.

Other than those two minor, minor things I thought this was a fantastic account of the life of one of my favourite streets and I can only hope there will be a Dirty White Boy Part 2 coming our way in the next year.

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