What’s Been On My Mind This Week

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1. The winner of the inaugural Folio Prize for Fiction was announced on Monday. George Saunders took home £40,000 for his short story collection The Tenth of December. The Folio Prize was set up in response to the 2011 Booker Prize which was notorious for judges allegedly favouring ‘readability’ over literary excellence. The Folio Prize is distinct from the Booker in that they consider a broader range of fiction, and that authors of any nationality are eligible, provided they write in English. However, commentators have been quick to point out that Saunders is American, and that only one British author – Jane Gardam – featured on the Folio Prize shortlist. What with the Booker open to American writers for the first time this year, and British writers making up only one-fifth of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, it’s perhaps no surprise that there are some who claim British authors are struggling in comparison to their American counterparts.

2. The 28th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival opens at the BFI next week. Apparently the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ have become ‘old-fashioned’, so the festival has been renamed Flare in an effort to make it more ‘inclusive’ and to reflect a broader understanding of ‘identity’. This year’s programme showcases more than fifty films from around the world, and British film Lilting, starring Ben Whishaw, has been chosen to open the festival.

3. The 2014 Olivier Awards were announced on Monday. It was wonderful to see three of the four nominations for Best Director going to women, and also to see nominations for the brilliant Cush Jumbo and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre category. If you didn’t see Fleabag last year, don’t miss the opportunity to catch it in May, when Waller-Bridge reprises it at the Soho Theatre.

4. I’ve only just started watching the brilliant BBC police drama Line of Duty – yes, I know I’m late to the party – but immediately devoured three episodes back-to-back. Keeley Hawes and Vicky McClure are both superb, and it’s wonderful to see more brilliant home-grown drama on our screens. Speaking of which, apparently Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan will start filming the second series of The Fall this month, and I can’t wait to see how their game of cat-and-mouse will continue.

5. The Independent on Sunday announced today that it will no longer review ‘gender-specific’ children’s books.

6. Surprise, surprise: a new study has found that women are still under-represented when it comes to major roles in film. A survey titled ‘It’s a Man’s Celluloid World’ revealed that, in 2013, women accounted for only 15% of protagonists, 29% of major characters and 30% of speaking characters in top one hundred films in America that year. Furthermore, Dr Martha Lauzen, author of the study, said in a statement that ‘female characters are less likely than males to have identifiable goals or be portrayed as leaders of any kind.’

7. Stonewall will be celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. To celebrate, they’ve created a website with a timeline detailing some of the major achievements in LGBT equality since 1989.

8. I’ve been to the one in Rome, and now I’ve discovered that SAID opened a branch of their famous cioccolateria in London’s Broadwick Street last December. Anyone who hasn’t tried Italian hot chocolate – served so thick you can stand your spoon up in it – I recommend you plan a visit immediately.

9. This week I’ve been reading The Signature of All Things, the new novel by Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, which was later turned into a film starring Julia Roberts. An ambitious historical novel that fully deserves its place on the longlist of this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, The Signature of All Things is set in Philadelphia, Tahiti and Amsterdam in the 19th century. Bryologist (someone who studies mosses) Alma Whittaker is a wonderful character, and the novel is suffused with a reverence and wonder for science, knowledge, discovery and the beauty of the natural world.

10. I’m currently listening to Visions by Canadian electronic artist Grimes (Claire Boucher). It’s a strange, unsettling album, but the combination of heavy use of synth and Boucher’s falsetto is an exquisite one, and the album keeps delivering more and more each time I listen to it.

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