Uzodinma Iweala (pictured) has won the LA Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction for Beasts of No Nation, and has also been shortlisted for a James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Saturday by Ian McEwan is also in the shortlist. I finished reading it a few weeks ago, hoping to find out what the fuss was about this McEwan fella. What McEwan does is make extraordinary events appear like an everyday happenings. Plane crashes, anti-war protests, car accidents, hostage taking, are all made to seem as normal as popping out for a pint of milk. Where other authors would have sensationalised these rather sensational events, the main character, Henry Perowne's laissez-faire-ness is expressed through these abnormal events. Highly recommended.
Why's the post called my kid's a novelist? I must admit that when I first heard about Uzodinma Iweala's book, a sneer broke across my face. He is of course the son of Nigeria's finance minister, Ngozi Okonji-Iweala (good Guardian interview). I reckoned, probably wrongly, that he had gotten his deal by dint of his mother's status. She's the finance minister of a corrupt African country, how much of of a box office draw is she? Hardly, if at all. So it's probably just a case of my inner green-eyed monster forcing himself into visibility. The man's 23 and he already has a critical hit on his hands, and I (at the grand old age of...) have, erm, a critical post about his critical hit.
It reminded me of Cecelia Ahern, the daughter of the Irish Taoiseach (pronounced "tee-sha") who aged 22 got $1 million for her first book. Her father's status had nothing to do with it? Incidentally, her sister Georgina Ahern is married to a former Westlifer.
My beef isn't that they're young, successful, and by default, sexy, but that they're products of dynasties. People who end up in the public eye and already have parents in the public eye, have to work doubly hard to prove their worth. It's unfortunate, but with cynics like me out here, they'll have to keep proving themselves. It could be argued that their parents are prominent in different fields, but there's no doubt that there are connections to be utilised in daddy and mummy's contacts book. The parents might not be the direct links to success, but definitely give the children an unfair leg-up. How can we create a level playing-field for all aspiring authors? So long as some are more famous that others, we can't. Such is life.
I do have it on good authority though, that Uzodinma Iweala is a stand-up guy, and that Beasts is a brilliant book (will read it soon). So I should probably poison my inner green Mr Hyde and pat the fella on the back. I will. Soon.