Spiderman left on shelf in quest for prize novel

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
English teacher Chris Loxley has been hiding an embarrassing secret from his pupils - his favourite works of literature are Spiderman comics and Doctor Who novels.

This summer, however, the 26-year-old volunteered to read the 17 titles on the Man Booker Prize longlist within one month.

Mr Loxley, who will begin the new term teaching at St Benedict's Roman Catholic school in Colchester, said: "I used to read a lot but then I got into trash fiction and comics. In the past two months I have read Doctor Who novels, Manga comics, a postmodern horror novel, a book called Giantslayer about a dwarf who slays giants and a Spiderman comic featuring The Sinister Six.

"It's shameful - not the kind of stuff an English teacher should be caught reading."

He decided to read the Booker longlist after learning that BBC Four wanted people to make video diaries of their opinions of all the books for its Bookered Out show.

"Because I work in a school and am trying to get teenage boys to read, I thought it would be a good idea."

The list features such literary heavyweights as Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes and JM Coetzee. The competition comes with a pound;50,000 first prize.

The first three novels, Slow Man by JM Coetzee, The People's Act of Love by James Meek and In The Fold by Rachel Cusk arrived through his letterbox on August 12.

But Mr Loxley was not overly impressed with Ms Cusk's offering, which he read first because it had the fewest pages.

"She uses 500 words when one could do," he said. "It annoyed me that she would always say 'countenance' rather than 'face'."

He has until September 8, when the winner is announced, to read the 17 entries, and said certain activities would have to be sacrificed.

"Friends, family and personal grooming will be neglected as I struggle to read every novel," said Mr Loxley, laughing.

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