This is his year: last month Colm Tóibín was named chairman of the PEN World Voices festival (replacing Salman Rushdie) and on October 7 comes his new novel Nora Webster, about an Irish woman widowed at 40 with four children, a certain contender for major awards. Twenty-four years ago, after being rejected by twenty publishers over two and half years, Tóibín’s debut novel The South was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and won the Irish Times/Aer Lingus prize for first novel. Two years later his second novel, The Heather Blazing, won the Encore Prize. His third novel, the widely-prized The Story of the Night, set in Argentina, is included on Publishing Triangle’s list of the 100 best lesbian & gay novels. The Blackwater Lightship, his fourth, exploring the fractious family relations as a young man with aids comes back to die in County Wexford, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was adapted for a tv movie starring Angela Lansbury and Dianne Wiest. The Master, his revelatory novel about Henry James, was an international bestseller. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, named one of the New York Times’ ten best books of the year, won the LA Times Novel of the Year award, and won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, worth 100,000 Euros. His Brooklyn was a highlight of 2009, when it was a bestseller and a Booker finalist. His story collection, The Empty Family, is flat-out magnificent and won the Lammy for gay fiction. His earlier story collection was Mothers and Sons and his newer essay collection is New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families.
Three books Tóibín considers major influences on his work are The Sun Also Rises, Giovanni’s Room, and Go Tell It On the Mountain, and he told B&N his ten favorite novels, not in order, are: Company, Beckett; A Book of Common Prayer, Didion; Doctor Faustus, Mann; Daniel Deronda, Eliot; Age of Iron, Coetzee; Amongst Women, McGahern; The Portrait of a Lady, James; The Trial, Kafka; Things Fall Apart, Achebe; Island, McLeod; and The Enigma of Arrival, Naipaul.