THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET Kata Rocks
Login | Create Account Poll Currency Weather Facebook Youtube Search

Memoirs of a brilliant barbarian

A surfing memoir already hailed as a classic won the inaugural Prix America on June 26 for the best book published in or about the US.


By AFP

Sunday 16 July 2017, 02:00PM


New Yorker magazine journalist William Finnegan has already won a Pulitzer prize for Barbarian Days, which has garnered the kind of reviews most writers can only dream of.

He said that the book had begun as a hesitant “coming out” on his secret life as a not-so-dumb surfer, forever searching for the perfect wave.

The New York Review of Books called it “an utterly convincing study in the joy of treating seriously an ‘unserious’ subject”.

The judges of the French-based Prix America agreed, declaring that if it had been about “sex or drugs it would be seen as one of the strongest books we have about the effects of desire, the vortex of obsession the difficulty of weaning ourselves off” our addictions.

A review in The New York Times said the book’s “emotional core is Mr Finnegan’s attempt to reckon with what drives him to surf – the same impulse, he realises, that drove him later in life, as a staff writer for The New Yorker, to report from so many war zones, like El Salvador and Sudan. He wants to consider the ‘big psychic hole’ that surfing fills in him, the appeal of a kind of danger that approaches the sublime”.

Finnegan, 65, said that he was “astounded to win with a book (about surfing) with all the big novels around”.

“I am thrilled. I think the judges got the whole ambition of the book and felt it came together.”
Having taken 20 years to write, “to have someone tell you your book is literature and that it reads like fiction is just great”, he added.

BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET

The prize is awarded by the French literary review, America, which has been set up to reflect the US under Donald Trump.

The author said that part of the book’s popularity may be because his account stops before Trump’s rise to power, which he described as a “catastrophe”.

The judges also praised Finnegan – who covered civil wars in Latin America, Sudan and the Balkans – for his acute understanding of the effect of American foreign policy.

“One of the threads running through the book is an incredible description of the humiliations the US has visited upon those who do not go along with its vision of the world,” they added.

Finnegan travelled the globe as a surf bum before becoming a journalist after writing an account of his time teaching “coloured” children in apartheid South Africa, a job he picked up while surfing on the Cape.

His New Yorker colleague George Packer’s highly-acclaimed The Unwinding, a portrayal of the “coming apart of America’s national fabric”, also made the shortlist.

The other books in contention were Donald Ray Pollock’s novel The Heavenly Table; The Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff; Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson; Writing to Save a Life by John Edgar Wideman; Into the Forest by Jean Hegland – which has been compared to Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale – and Kristopher Jansma’s New York-set We Came to the City.

 

 

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

Comments Here:
Comments Left:
# Characters
Username:
Password:
E-mail:
Security:

Be the first to comment.

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Police traffic tickets set to go digital

Drunk cyclists? Come on, that can't actually be a thing. What is there, like one? Focus on moto...(Read More)


Sunscreen among contributing factors killing Phuket’s coral reefs

...right,also customs should check every Chinese tourist to make sure none of this sunscreens been s...(Read More)


US Govt shutdown prevents tsunami-warning buoy going live

I wounder who would be responsible right now if something would happen?...(Read More)


Layan lockout: Public access denied amid Supreme Court wrangle for B10bn beachfront land

Well, there is only fool out of the 60 milllion population who thinks, government action against no...(Read More)


New B25mn tsunami-warning buoy ‘to be operational tomorrow’

Not matter of being worried/panic when you live high/dry. A 1.5 year not working Tsunami buoy is no...(Read More)


TAT cultivates India as rich source of tourist arrivals

Westerners were the #1 tourists. 4 years ago, Thailand made changes to make things less desirable fo...(Read More)


TAT cultivates India as rich source of tourist arrivals

Have written it before, finished and scammed+++ Europeans and then it was Chinese next is Indian and...(Read More)


Sunscreen among contributing factors killing Phuket’s coral reefs

Sun-protection creams, soaps, shampoos during boat trips or during fishing for all professional fish...(Read More)


Tout dumps slow loris with tourist, evades arrest at Kata Beach

I think my know everything thai, has a very short, or damaged, memory, a very quick search throws th...(Read More)


Bad day in Phuket: Australian found hanged, Frenchman dies of heart attack

Not a good day for the police officers? I bet the two dead guys were not that happy about it either....(Read More)