Hilary Mantel remains my favourite literary stoic, however. Despite her producing A Place of Greater Safety and other magnificent novels, prize juries overlooked her. After she finally won the Booker in 2009, she had every right to be triumphalist. Instead, she wrote in the Economist of how ‘once, when I was trudging home from my second failure to win the £20,000 Sunday Express award, a small boy I knew bobbed out on to the balcony of his flat. “Did you win?” I shook my head. “Never mind,” he said, just like everyone else. And then, quite unlike everyone else: “If you like, you can come up and play with my guinea pig.”’ I suspect that Mantel knew for years that she was the real thing, and just needed to wait for the rest of us to catch up.
From July 9 Diary, by Nick Cohen, which is mainly about something else entirely.