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Posts tagged ‘Man Booker Prize’

2011 Man Booker Prize Longlist Announced

Alan Hollinghurst

The big news overnight is the announcement of the longlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize. As usual it’s a mixed bag, with books by heavy-hitters such as Alan Hollinghurst rubbing shoulders with books by relative unknowns such as Esi Edugyan, but this year it’s also heavy on Canadians (Alison Pick, Patrick deWitt, Esi Edugyan) and debut novels (Stephen Kelman, A.D. Miller, Yvette Edwards and Patrick McGuiness). There are no Australians on the list.

I’ve only read a handful of the books on the list, so I’m not going to offer any organised views about it beyond saying that while it looks like an interesting and reasonably diverse selection of books, the proof, as always, will be in what kind of shortlist it shakes out into.

Of the books I have read, I’m pleased to see Sebastian Barry’s On Canaan’s Side has made the cut: I’m reviewing it for The Australian so I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that while I’m not sure it’s quite as good as his extraordinary 2005 novel, A Long Long Way (if you haven’t read it do so, now) it’s a very fine novel. Likewise I’ve read part but not all of the Hollinghurst and while again I’m not convinced it has the urgency and unity of The Line of Beauty, it’s also very, very good. That said I reviewed Carol Birch’s Jamrach’s Menagerie, which is based on the wreck of the Whaleship Essex and was also longlisted for the Orange Prize, and while I like it, I’m a little surprised to see it turning up here, though that’s less because I don’t rate it as a book than because its brand of highly coloured, almost ecstatic historical fiction (think Golding rather than Mantel) seems a little at odds with the tone of the list as a whole.

Of the things I haven’t read I’ve heard uniformly terrific things about Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, and I’m interested to see Jane Rogers, a writer who has been more than a little neglected in recent years make the list with what sounds like a piece of dystopian science fiction.

As always the other question is what’s not been included. The books the media have noticed are missing are Graham Swift’s Wish You Were Here and Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz. Of the two I’m unsurprised by the omission of the Swift, which I’ve reviewed for The Age, and while again I don’t want to preempt the review I will say is really quite bad. I’m more surprised about the Enright: while it’s not as striking or as urgent as either her short fiction or her 2007 Booker-winner, The Gathering, it’s a quite dazzling book at a textual and technical level, demonstrating not just great psychological and social acuity, but the marvellous combination of steeliness and orality that so distinguishes Enright’s prose. I’m also slightly surprised by the omission of Malcolm Knox’s The Life, which I assume was eligible for the prize, and should, all things being equal, have been in contention.

The other big omission is China Miéville’s Embassytown, which had been widely tipped to bring Miéville the mainstream recognition he so plainly deserves. I don’t want to revisit the genre vs literary argument here, but to my mind the failure to even longlist a novel as rich and prismatic as Embassytown says something about the narrowness of our literary culture.

I’m sure others can think of other SF and Fantasy books that perhaps should have been included, but I’d like to mention one in particular, which is Jo Walton’s Among Others. I have no idea whether it was even submitted, but if it wasn’t that seems a pity, since it’s both a wonderful novel and a book I suspect is likely to appeal to literary readers as much as it does to a segment of the SF and Fantasy readership. I’m planning to write something about it soon, so I won’t go on about it too much here, except to say I enjoyed it immensely, and it’s very definitely a book that deserves a wider readership.

Anyway, enough about me. You can read more about the list at The Guardian and The Independent (or anywhere, really), read the official announcement for more information about the prize and the judges, or find links to samples from the longlisted books on Galleycat. The shortlist is announced on Tuesday 6 September and the winner on Tuesday 18 October. The full longlist is below.

Update: Two more books I’m surprised aren’t on the list. The conclusion to Edward St Aubyn’s Melrose Trilogy, At Last, and my agent David Miller’s wonderful short novel about the death of Conrad, Today. I’m sure more will occur to me as the day goes on …

Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending
Sebastian Barry – On Canaan’s Side
Carol Birch – Jamrach’s Menagerie
Patrick deWitt – The Sisters Brothers
Esi Edugyan – Half Blood Blues
Yvvette Edwards – A Cupboard Full of Coats
Alan Hollinghurst – The Stranger’s Child
Stephen Kelman – Pigeon English
Patrick McGuinness – The Last Hundred Days
A.D. Miller – Snowdrops
Alison Pick – Far to Go
Jane Rogers – The Testament of Jessie Lamb
D.J. Taylor – Derby Day

Man Booker Prize shortlist announced

The shortlist for this years Man Booker Prize was announced this morning in London. Since the judges seem to have got the notable omissions out of the way when they assembled the longlist (Ian McEwan, Martin Amis) they’re not the big news this time round, though the two books many will note the absence of are Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap and David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Not having read the whole list I’m not really in a position to guess at the likely winner, but I would say that Emma Donoghue’s fictional reworking of the Natasha Kampusch story, Room, has been attracting a lot of attention, and while Tom McCarthy’s C has probably slipped under many people’s radar, if it’s made it to the shortlist I think it’d have to be the dark horse candidate. It’s also pleasing (not least because I’m an admirer of the book) to see Peter Carey shortlisted for Parrot and Olivier in America.

The six books on the shortlist are:

Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America
Emma Donoghue, Room
Damon Galgut, In a Strange Room
Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question
Andrea Levy, The Long Song
Tom McCarthy, C

In other award-related news, Sunday saw the announcement of this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novel, which was split between China Mieville’s The City and the City and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, a result which seems about right to me.

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James Wood on literary awards

the_man_booker_prizeTo mark the 40th year of the Booker Prize (now the Man Booker Prize) The Guardian has tracked down one judge from each of the 40 judging committees and asked them about their recollections about the process. It’s worth reading the whole article, but James Wood’s comments about the absurdity of the process and the increasingly invasive and distorting role prizes play in the literary economy deserve to be quoted in full:

“After serving on the 1994 Booker prize committee, I made a pledge never to judge a big fiction prize again, and I have so far honoured it. We were a congenial group, and our chairman was not a former politician or bureaucrat but a distinguished literary critic (John Bayley); our meetings were friendly, and surely no less or more argumentative than those of other years. But the absurdity of the process was soon apparent: it is almost impossible to persuade someone else of the quality or poverty of a selected novel (a useful lesson in the limits of literary criticism). In practice, judge A blathers on about his favourite novel for five minutes, and then judge B blathers on about her favourite novel for five minutes, and nothing changes: no one switches sides. That is when the horse-trading begins. I remember that one of the judges phoned me and said, in effect: ‘I know that you especially like novel X, and you know that I especially like novel Y. It would be good if both those books got on to the shortlist, yes? So if you vote for my novel, I’ll vote for yours, OK?’

“That is how our shortlist was patched together, and it is how our winner was chosen. It is how every shortlist is chosen, whether the premises are as explicit or not. I liked the winning book a great deal (James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late) – it was one of my choices – and would have been happy with either that book or Alan Hollinghurst’s The Folding Star. But I intensely disliked the way we reached that verdict, and felt that the arbitrary, utterly political process discredited the whole project.

“Since then, prizes have become a form of reviewing: it is prize-lists that select what people read, prize-lists that make literary careers. Bookshops order novels based on the prizes they have won or been shortlisted for. Nowadays, a whole month before the shortlist is announced, scores of novelists are effectively told that their books have not been the “big books” of the year, because they are not to be found on the longlist. Soon, no doubt, we will have the long-longlist, and the long-long longlist. Some wonderful books win the Booker, of course, just as the flypaper occasionally catches some really large flies. But it means – or should mean – nothing in literary terms.”

Read more at The Guardian.

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2009 Man Booker longlist announced

6jacketsforsiteFor those of you who haven’t seen it, the longlist for the 2009 Man Booker Prize has been announced. The judges are calling it “one of the strongest lists in recent memory” (which I’m sure isn’t meant to sound as much like faint praise as it does), and at one level they’re right, since it’s headed up by previous winners such as J.M. Coetzee, William Trevor and A.S. Byatt, but to my mind it’s an oddly subdued list.

I’m sure I’ve aired my views about the Australian fixation on the Booker before, but there’s something oddly colonial about the way we fetishize it, particularly given our relative lack of interest in American awards such as the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. No doubt that’s got a bit to do with the fact that the Booker admits Australian writers, while the major American awards don’t, but I suspect it’s got rather more to do with our lingering attachment to old prejudices.

That said, there’s no doubt that as literary horse races go, the Booker is one of the best. Artfully stage-managed until recently by administrator Martyn Goff, it has made an art form of the contrived controversy (for a more in-depth analysis of the reasons for the Booker’s pre-eminence you might want to read John Sutherland’s 2008 analysis of the prize’s evolution and Goff’s role in that process, ‘The Booker’s Big Bang’).

As for this year’s list, it’s nice to see my Faber stablemate, Sarah Hall get a guernsey for How to Paint a Dead Man. I was an admirer of her dystopian fable, The Carhullan Army, a book which took the allegorical power of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and married it to an incredibly fine-grained sense of the textures of the landscapes it inhabited. Likewise Colm Toibin’s quietly brilliant Brooklyn has to be a serious contender for the shortlist, if not the prize itself, as does the new Coetzee, Summertime. If these things really came down to quality, I’d say the Byatt was in with a chance as well, but remarkable as it is it’s such a deliberately unfashionable and idiosyncratic creation that it’s difficult to see it edging out more audience-friendly books like the Toibin.

But if I were a betting man, my money would be on the Mantel, Wolf Hall. It is, quite simply, a magnificent book: effortlessly intelligent, beautifully written, pulsing with life, and proof positive (if anyone had any doubt) that Hilary Mantel is one of the best writers working anywhere at the moment.

Anyway, the full longlist is:

A.S. Byatt, The Children’s Book (Chatto and Windus)
J.M. Coetzee, Summertime (Harvill Secker)
Adam Foulds, The Quickening Maze (Jonathan Cape)
Sarah Hall, How to paint a dead man (Faber and Faber)
Samantha Harvey, The Wilderness (Jonathan Cape)
James Lever, Me Cheeta (Fourth Estate)
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate)
Simon Mawer, The Glass Room (Little, Brown)
Ed O’Loughlin, Not Untrue & Not Unkind (Penguin)
James Scudamore, Heliopolis (Harvill Secker)
Colm Toibin, Brooklyn Penguin (Viking)
William Trevor, Love and Summer (Viking)
Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger (Virago)

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