Kathy is a writer. Kathy is getting married. It’s the summer of 2017 and the whole world is falling apart. From a Tuscan hotel for the super-rich to a Brexit-paralysed UK, Kathy spends the first summer of her 40s trying to adjust to making a lifelong commitment just as Trump is tweeting the world into nuclear war. But it’s not only Kathy who’s changing. Political, social and natural landscapes are all in peril. Fascism is on the rise, truth is dead, the planet is hotting up. Is it really worth learning to love when the end of the world is nigh? And how do you make art, let alone a life, when one rogue tweet could end it all.

Olivia Laing radically rewires the novel in a brilliant, funny and emphatically raw account of love in the apocalypse. A Goodbye to Berlin for the 21st century, Crudo charts in real time what it was like to live and love in the horrifying summer of 2017, from the perspective of a commitment-phobic peripatetic artist who may or may not be Kathy Acker...

About the author

Olivia Laing is a widely acclaimed writer and critic. She writes for the Guardian, New Statesman and Frieze among many other publications. Her first book, To the River, was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. The Trip to Echo Spring was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Gordon Burn Prize. The Lonely City was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, and translated into 15 languages. In 2018 she was awarded a Windham-Campbell Prize. She lives in London.

The judges on the shortlist

Adam Mars-Jones on Crudo

Olivia Laing’s Crudo is novelistic fusion cuisine, with life writing and literary ventriloquism served on the same tasty plate, with the narrator planning her wedding, which she wants to be perfect, while also unpredictably channeling the harsh anarchic voice of Kathy Acker, the American experimental writer who came to fame in the 1980s.  Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway could plan a dinner party without too much agonising about her position of privilege but a twenty-first century person, particularly if she’s addicted to social media, must reckon with the precariousness of every assumption.  Collapse feels very near in Crudo, but the urge to celebrate holds its own against the impulse to panic or mourn, and the greedy disruptive voice of Kathy Acker keeps breaking through to remind us that disintegration is inside us, as well as stalking the world stage hurling its bricks.

Back to the Shortlist