My shortly-to-be-read-list

September 13, 2006 at 10:57 pm Leave a comment

The 2006 Man Booker Prize shortlist will be announced tomorrow, but since there’s little chance of me reading the minds of the judges correctly, here’s my shortlist – based mainly on the books I am most looking forward to reading: Peter Carey, Kiran Desai, MJ Hyland, David Mitchell, Andrew O’Hagan, Barry Unsworth.

After telling the world what a strong impression Peter Carey’s book made on them with its vigour and energy, it would be strange if the judges left him off the shortlist – although if cover design was a factor it would be dead in the water. Whoever designed such a mundane cover (particularly for a novel about an artist) would be better employed designing road signs. (On second thoughts, maybe that was the last job they were sacked from.)

I will also be surprised (and very disappointed) if Maria Hyland doesn’t make the cut. This year, the official Man Booker website includes a forum for people to debate the runners and riders, and there’s a lot of love for Carry Me Down.

Edward St Aubyn’s style has also made a big impression over there, and the few people who have got hold of a copy of James Robertson’s novel have enjoyed it a lot. I suspect it will be either/or between Robertson and O’Hagan though – the judges aren’t likely to include two books with a religious theme from Scottish writers, are they? Perm two from those three.

I don’t rate Howard Jacobson’s chances, but then I did once give up on one of his books three-quarters of the way through because I just didn’t care what happened to the characters. Possibly because I’m not a middle-aged, straight Jewish bloke going through a mid-life crisis. This year’s judges may have a similar lack of empathy, what with the majority of them being women – something which might lead to the shortlist being more evenly gender-balanced than usual. Although this could lead to some controversial choices…

At 82 years-of-age Nadine Gordimer is the oldest author on the longlist. She won the Booker way back in 1974 for The Conservationist, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. Yet according to David Isaacson’s review in The Independent “she’s a verb short of a full sentence”! Jane Gardam was less impolite in her review in The Guardian, remarking that “this is not Wordsworth”.

As for Claire Messud, I’m still not sure how she qualifies for the prize – she was born in America, and lives and works there. Maybe she qualifies as a citizen of one of the countries of the Commonwealth through one of her parents – whatever – someone is driving a coach and horses through the spirit of the rules.

Meanwhile if Kate Grenville or Sarah Waters are on the list, some (including me) would suggest that it is at least partly because one or more of the judges are fans of their previous work. (Ditto David Mitchell, but being the bookies’ favourite may well be the kiss of death for him anyway – it usually is.)

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The Man Booker Prize 2006: Longlist The 2006 Man Booker Prize Shortlist

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