I've remarked before, I think, on the woeful inadequacy of the word 'cold' as denominator of a condition that so thoroughly knocks the stuffing out of a person as to leave them barely capable of functioning. Such an affliction - contracted on the last day of the great May-June heatwave ('cold' indeed!) - flattened me yesterday. Hence my blog silence (I didn't think you'd appreciate posts along the lines of 'Groan... Cough... Atishoo... Aargh... Groan...'). Feeling a little better today, I wake to learn the glad, if wildly unlikely, tidings about the great Marilynne - see Bryan here for a fittingly warm and magisterial tribute. So strange that she should have won a prize with such a track record, and so strange that it should be for Home, a novel that cannot be properly understood without reading its companion piece Gilead, and one that is challenging and difficult even for a Robinson devotee like me. Still, she has won, she sounded very pleased, and it is cause for rejoicing.
The Orange Prize itself seems more and more anomalous - an award restricted to women suggests an embattled minority in need of a leg-up, whereas the reality is that fiction is increasingly written by women and for women. And looking back over my recent reading and discoveries, I find the list of names is overwhelmingly female - Marilynne of course, Shirley Hazzard, Elizabeth Bishop, Penelope Fitzgerald, Anne Tyler, Cynthia Ozick, now Flannery O'Connor (and Christina Stead waiting in the wings)... That is more than enough literary talent - greatness indeed - to be going on with. It is arguably the men who need a prize of their own now - maybe the, er, Man Booker?