So who takes on the dog?

August 12, 2006 at 5:08 pm 2 comments

The longlist for the 2006 Man Booker Prize is revealed on Monday, so it’s time to start speculating. Perry Middlemiss has had his list of possibles up for ages but, as he says, there are always a few that are impossible to predict: books from small publishers, books by previously unknown authors, and books which haven’t been published yet. Indeed it sounded like Zadie Smith had barely finished writing her shortlisted novel (On Beauty) by this time last year. In that respect, The Guardian’s list of new releases has been helpful – providing me with a few more possibles, including some big names; as has reviewsofbooks.com. Throw in a few hunches gleaned from a bit of random surfing around Amazon, and here is my speculative verylonglist:

Peter Ackroyd – The Fall of Troy
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun

Monica Ali -Alentejo Blue
Martin Amis – House of Meetings

Will Ashon – Clear Water
Margaret Atwood – Moral Disorder
JG Ballard – Kingdom Come
Martyn Bedford – The Island of Lost Souls
William Boyd – Restless
Jonathan Buckley – So He Takes the Dog
Jon Canter – Seeds of Greatness
Peter Carey – Theft: A Love Story
Sacred Games – Vikram Chandra
Rachel Cusk – Arlington Park
Emma Darwin – The Mathematics of Love
Kiran Desai – The Inheritance of Loss
Roddy Doyle – Paula Spencer
Sarah Dunant – In the Company of the Courtesan
Helen Dunmore – House of Orphans
Robert Edric – Gathering the Water
Michael Fishwick – Sacrifices
Margaret Forster – Keeping The World Away
Camilla Gibb – Sweetness in the Belly
Romesh Gunesekera – The Match
Jane Harris – The Observations
M.J. Hyland – Carry Me Down
Howard Jacobson – Kalooki Nights
Gautam Malkani – Londonstani
Colum McCann – Zoli
Jon McGregor – So Many Ways To Begin
David Mitchell – Black Swan Green
Stanley Middleton – Mother’s Boy
Julie Myerson – The Story of You
Andrew O’Hagan – Be Near Me
Tim Parks – Cleaver
Ray Robinson – Electricity
Will Self – The Book of Dave
D.J. Taylor – Kept: A Victorian Mystery
Barry Unsworth – The Ruby in Her Navel
Alan Warner – The Worms Can Carry Me To Heaven
Sarah Waters – The Night Watch
Irvine Welsh – The Bedroom Secrets Of The Master Chefs

I can’t quite say that I haven’t read any of them: I’ve just started Black Swan Green, and I have actually read some of The Book of Dave – but, like most of Will Self’s novels, the urge to put it down proved irresistable. I wonder if on his school reports, instead of the traditional “must try harder”, teachers would suggest that he didn’t try quite so hard. I think that may just be me, though, and he might find favour with the judges – unlike the 2003 winner DBC Pierre I suspect. I found his second novel Ludmila’s Broken English a tad half-baked. Monica Ali may fare better with her second novel Alentejo Blue, but the reviews of both strongly suggest that neither will get near the shortlist.

This year’s judges are:
Hermione Lee (biographer & critic)
Simon Armitage (poet & novelist)
Candia McWilliam (novelist)
Anthony Quinn (film critic)
Fiona Shaw (actress)

That’s three women and two men – so we should see a well-balanced list gender-wise; with Sarah Dunant, Helen Dunmore, Margaret Forster, Camilla Gibb and Sarah Waters all looking like contenders for the shortlist to me. Plus Margaret Atwood if her new book – consisting of ten ‘interrelated’ stories – is eligible. I also had Margaret Drabble on the list until I read this article by Michael Holroyd in The Times and learned that she refuses to let her novels be submitted.

Of course, only a fool would even think of trying to predict a shortlist at this stage, but sometimes in recent years the eventual winner has been one which, the moment I heard about it, I really wanted to read – namely True History of the Kelly Gang, Life of Pi, and Vernon God Little. So, for the record, the one I am most keen to get my hands on this year is So He Takes the Dog by Jonathan Buckley.

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Muriel Spark RIP The Man Booker Prize 2006: Longlist

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