The Booker Prize: Our London Cabbie's Review
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Coming up, I get some expert help posing some tough questions to Big Bird. But first, the greatest literary minds are consuming vast amounts of tea, no doubt, as they shrink their shortlist for the Man Booker Prize from six to the winner next Tuesday. The Booker Prize is awarded to the best work of fiction by an author who is a citizen of the Commonwealth, the British Commonwealth, not the Virginia or the Republic of Ireland. But hey, who needs the Booker Prize Committee when we have own our own Will Grozier? He is the London cabbie who when he's not behind the wheel is behind a book - never, we hope, at the same time. As soon as the shortlist was announced last month, Will started reading. He joins us now from London. Will, thanks so much for being back with us.
Mr. WILL GROZIER (London Cab Driver): Hello, Scott. Good to speak to you again.
SIMON: What do you think of the books you read?
Mr. GROZIER: Well, what I thought about - all of them have an absolute right to be there up on the list because they're all very readable books. I've read three and a half, but I've actually dipped into all six. The first one that I got stuck into was "The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga, and it's the story of a young man growing up in poverty and getting absolutely fixated on the idea of trying to join the white-hot miracle that is the data and technological revolution that has become Bangalore and Mumbai and places like that. By dint of becoming a driver, he finds that when he rubs shoulders with what he perceives to be the aristocracy of Indian society, they are just as corrupt and awful as the groundswell of the vast population. And so he hatches this plan to leapfrog over the hard way to do this, and murders his employer and runs off with the money. And this is a very funny story, but at the same time a very caustic tale of how the two Indias rub up against each other.
SIMON: I read that one. I liked it.
Mr. GROZIER: Yeah. OK. Good.
SIMON: What else did you read that you liked?
Mr. GROZIER: Well, Steve Toltz, "A Fraction of the Whole." If I said to you...
SIMON: He's the Australian guy, right?
Mr. GROZIER: He's the Australian guy. If I said to you the "True History of the Kelly Gang" meets "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", Hunter S. Thompson. Now if I said to you a crossover between those two, you'd say what on Earth is that about?
SIMON: I, actually, I think I'd want to pick it up, but explain that to us, yeah.
Mr. GROZIER: Well, it's the writing style is - I suppose the best way to describe the writing style is in using Steve Toltz's words himself, because he talks about a media-rioting mob or explosion of a media supernova. I would say Steve Toltz is an explosion of a literary supernova.
SIMON: You sound like you like it.
Mr. GROZIER: I do. But I had to put it down and crash through some of the others because it's one of those books that demands your attention and demands that you work at it. But at the same time, it's extremely rewarding. If my choice doesn't win, this might.
SIMON: So what is your choice if you were on that committee?
Mr. GROZIER: What impressed me the most was Sebastian Barry's "The Secret Scripture." And this is the story of an old woman in a nursing home in Rosscommon in Sligo spending her time musing over her life. And in a sense, it's an Irish history crafted onto a very personal relationship between this old lady and the much younger psychiatrist that has been asked to care for her. And it's a wonderfully lyrical, sensitive, touching, gut-wrenching even. I mean, it's bleak on one hand and beautiful on the other.
SIMON: Find out how I met our friend, Will. Come to our blog. You can give us your pick for the Man Booker Prize. And while you're on npr.org, please subscribe to our podcast called "At Your Leisure." Thanks so much, Will.
Mr. GROZIER: Thank you, Scott.