Lovely man is Vidal Sassoon & New York novelist Michael Thomas wins 2009 IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize 

by Suzan Abrams

I observed that Vidal Sassoon revolutionary hairstylist of London’s swinging sixties, is to be awarded the CBE from the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. I’m pleased for him.

I went to interview Sassoon once for a magazine personality spread when he arrived for a significant event in Kuala Lumpur from his mansion in Beverley Hills. I spent two hours with the father of modernist hair culture, over tea, at the Regent.

I was used to these assignments. As a fashion journalist with Female,  Singapore’s top lifestyle magazine, one of my tasks was to interview celebrities.

Of course, Sassoon is looking a lot older now but this was the Nineties and he was still very attractive, charismatic and with a shrewd look about him, able to size someone up in the blink of an eye.

Sassoon playacted both the charming conversationalist and gentleman to the letter. He retained a strong admiration for his good friend, Mary Quant.  She held his respect for her cleverness or more to the point, her powerful business acumen. I remember how after all those years, he still shook his head disbelievingly.

Born of Jewish parents, his pet subjects  now were architecture and Jewish history. He adored both these hobbies with a passion and could hold an intense dialogue about either for hours. He preferred we didn’t talk about hair design.  He told me, had his destiny taken a turn, he would have turned architect. In fact, he regretted a little that he hadn’t.

On hand was his personal assistant, a proper Adonis as the rest of the journalists joked, when comparing notes. Terribly handsome, muscled, long-haired, ponytailed. I was left embarassed at the end  of the interview. The hallway to Sassoon’s suite high up in the hotel, had been complicated. I soon lost my way to the lift. I returned to the suite  feeling sheepish but Sassoon was good-humoured and sympathetic. He sent the Adonis to escort me to the lift. I grinned. It was a pleasant few minutes, I assure you. You never know when you’ll feel 16 again.

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by Suzan Abrams

The Boston-born debut novelist Michael Thomas has won the 2009 IMPAC Dublin Prize, for Man Gone Down, a story on a 35-year old African-American man caught in a difficult bi-racial marriage but who still wistfully years for the American Dream.

Bankrupt and estranged from his Brahmin wife and three children, the devastated husband and father who finds himself squatting in his friend’s six-year old son’s bedroom, has just four days to come up with money to keep his family afloat and to once more stake his dignity and ambitions in the US.

First released by Black Cat, an imprint of Grove/Atlantic in early 2007, – you can see pictures of the launch here -, the New York Times book review also reveals a good picture of the handsome and now as I’m sure immensely pleased, Thomas, who lives in Brooklyn New York with his wife and three children and lectures at Hunter College.

I haven’t yet read the book but the plot reminds of me a heart-wrenching Sidney Poiter film.

The IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize offers the fattest purse for a literary award and Thomas will collect 100,000 euro.

Each year, nominations are called for, from libraries worldwide for any work of literature published internationally with English offered as a first language or translation. Man Gone Down was nominated by the National Library Service in Bridgestown, Barbados.