Archive for July, 2008

The A to X of the 2008 Man Booker longlist

The thirteen books on this year’s Man Booker Prize longlist are:

Aravind Adiga – The White Tiger
Gaynor Arnold – Girl in a Blue Dress
Sebastian Barry – The Secret Scripture
John Berger – From A to X
Michelle de Kretser – The Lost Dog
Amitav Ghosh – Sea of Poppies
Linda Grant – The Clothes on Their Backs
Mohammed Hanif – A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Philip Hensher – The Northern Clemency
Joseph O’Neill – Netherland
Salman Rushdie – The Enchantress Of Florence
Tom Rob Smith – Child 44
Steve Toltz – A Fraction of the Whole

I couldn’t love a jury more.
I knew John Berger had a new book coming out in September, but it never occurred to me that it might be in the running – I suspected he was blacklisted after his acceptance speech in 1972. King: A Street Story is one of my favourite books of all time, and I was terribly disappointed that it wasn’t even shortlisted in 1999. I can’t wait to read From A to X.

And a book about cricket as well! Marvellous.
(Although Susan Hill won’t agree.)

July 29, 2008 at 2:17 pm Leave a comment

Curried Salman?

The longlist for the 2008 Man Booker Prize will be announced on Tuesday, and predictions are flying around – especially at the Picador blog where they are offering £50 worth of books to whoever guesses the most right. I wasn’t planning on making any predictions after jinxing Gerard Woodward last year, but for the chance of another fifty quids worth of books I don’t have space for, or time to read, what the hell!
Here are my wild guesses:

Aravind Adiga – The White Tiger
Nadeem Aslam – The Wasted Vigil
Robert Edric – In Zodiac Light
Damon Galgut – The Impostor
Steven Galloway – The Cellist of Sarajevo
Dawn Garisch – Once, Two Islands
Helen Garner – The Spare Room
Sadie Jones – The Outcast
Michelle de Kretser – The Lost Dog
Elizabeth Lowry – The Bellini Madonna
David Park – The Truth Commissioner
Salman Rushdie – The Enchantress Of Florence
Helen Walsh – Once Upon A Time In England

…and here are another thirteen I could equally well have picked:

Sebastian Barry – The Secret Scripture
John Burnside – Glister
Andrew Crumey – Sputnik Caledonia
Peter Carey – His Illegal Self
Amitav Ghosh – Sea of Poppies
Mohammed Hanif – A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Zoë Heller – The Believers
Howard Jacobson – The Act of Love
Adam Mars-Jones – Pilcrow
James Kelman – Kieron Smith, Boy
Joseph O’Neill – Netherland
Ross Raisin – God’s Own Country
Tim Winton – Breath

Significantly (or perhaps not) two former judges have nailed their colours firmly to the mast, telling the world exactly what is going to win this year – not that they agree, of course…

Susan Hill, author, blogger, and Booker judge in 1975, is certain that The Spare Room by Helen Garner will…or, erm…should win this year’s prize; whereas John Sutherland, a judge in 1999 and 2005, insists that: “if The Enchantress of Florence doesn’t win this year’s Man Booker I’ll curry my proof copy and eat it.

Well, I’ve heard of having to eat your own words – but someone else’s?
It’s especially brave considering how many people find Rushdie’s novels indigestible…

July 28, 2008 at 12:33 am Leave a comment

Meet the new best (same as the old best)

Midnight’s Children by Sir Salman Rushdie has been voted the Booker of Bookers.

“When voting closed at midday on 8 July over 7800 people had voted (online and SMS) for the six shortlisted titles, with 36% voting for Midnight’s Children. Votes flooded in from across the world with 37% of online votes coming from the UK, followed by 27% from North America.”

But does anyone care? The discussion of the shortlisted titles on Newsnight Review last Friday was greeted by the sound of tumbleweed blowing across their website – as it failed to elicit a single comment.

I blame the uninspiring shortlist. It was always a recipe for disaster having a half-and-half process where judges pick the shortlist for the public to vote on. Whether consciously or not, I believe the judges were wary of shortlisting those books that they know to be popular, and which might therefore walk away with the vote. Leaving strong, and popular contenders like The Remains of the Day (which would have had my vote) and Possession off the shortlist cleared the way for a re-coronation of Midnight’s Children.

Adam Mars-Jones (whose novel Pilcrow ought to be on the longlist for this year’s prize when it is announced on July 29th) suggested that
what would be much more interesting would be to look at the books that never won the Booker but that did extremely well nevertheless. That would be wryer and less self-righteous.
I agree, and a number of other bloggers have been doing just that in their search for ‘The Best of the Rest of the Booker‘ which was won by David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.

For the record, of the ones I’ve read so far (79 of the 225 shortlisted titles) my favourite runners-up are:

Anthony Burgess – Earthly Powers
JG Ballard – Empire of the Sun
Julian Barnes – Flaubert’s Parrot
Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
Barry Unsworth – Morality Play
Jim Crace – Quarantine
Colm Tóibín – The Blackwater Lightship
David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas
Nicola Barker – Darkmans

Meanwhile, I wonder if the judges of this year’s prize saw the debate on BBC2’s The Culture Show, during which one member of the public asked:

“Why do they keep giving the Booker Prize to all these dismal books?
Life is tough enough without us having to read all this doom and gloom.”

Dear Booker Judges,

Could you find something uplifting for us to read this year?

Thank you,

Jo Public.

July 10, 2008 at 10:20 pm Leave a comment


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