A LIBRARIAN whose "strange book" has not yet been published outside Australia has been longlisted for a new pound stg. 50,000 ($115,000) literary prize in Britain.

John Hughes joins a list that includes Naomi Klein and Pulitzer Prize-winner Alex Ross, to contest the inaugural Warwick Prize for Writing, which will reward a book that tackles complex ideas in an accessible way.

Hughes's book, Someone Else, is a collection of fictional essays, written from the point of view and in the style of writers, artists and musicians who have influenced Hughes, such as Franz Kafka, Bob Dylan, John Cage and Samuel Beckett.

Hughes calls it a kind of ventriloquism, "speaking through them in a way, as well as writing about my personal responses to these figures". "They are whimsical as well," he said. "I hope they're not read too seriously."

Hughes, a librarian at Sydney Grammar School, said he had written the book when he was trying to find the time to begin work on a novel.

"I started writing these bits and pieces, but I got so excited by them and enjoyed them so much, they just took off," he said.

The Australian, November 20, 2008

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