Archive for September, 2013

Folly Afoot?

News has leaked from behind the paywalls of two Rupert Murdoch newspapers that the Man Booker Prize is to allow entries from American writers from next year. What an awful sentence to have to write.

If true – and the official Twitter feed has confirmed that there are “some changes afoot” – this is a decision that will go down like a cup of cold sick. “The Booker will now lose its distinctiveness,” said Melvyn Bragg, speaking for many of us, “It’s rather like a British company being taken over by some worldwide conglomerate.”

Do we think that the Pulitzer Prize will reciprocate by allowing non-American entries? No. There’s more chance of Snickers® being renamed Marathon. And why stop at books? Why not let American politicians enter other nations’ governments? (Insert your own vulgar political joke here.)

What kind of hollow marketing men would choose to betray half the world’s writers for a bit more coverage in the US? Inevitably an influx of American novels will mean less diversity, crowding out writing from Africa, Asia, and Australasia as well as Britain. Perhaps in the future a new Commonwealth literature prize will be founded to fill the gap left behind by the Man® Booker. It seems that the new Folio Prize may have sparked off a literary game of musical chairs.

Presumably this is the Booker’s attempt to stifle its new rival at birth, but it would be a mistake – disconnecting from your own history is a slow form of euthanasia. Something analogous happened in English county cricket in the 1990’s when the governing body decided to change the 40 overs-a-side format of the Sunday League which had been very successful since the late 1960’s. The new format was not popular and it was quickly changed back, but the link with the competition’s history had been permanently broken. A procession of sponsors came and went; spectators just came less. (That said, good luck to my home team Notts next Saturday in the final of whatever the competition is called now.)


September 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

2013 Man Booker Prize Shortlist

Here are six more additions to the list of books people pretend to have read,
and another six suicides postponed on World Suicide Prevention Day.
It’s the “fiendishly difficult to categorise” shortlist for the 2013 Man Booker Prize…

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Granta)
Harvest by Jim Crace (Picador)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Canongate)
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (Viking)

28 year old New Zealander Eleanor Catton is the youngest ever shortlisted author. At over 800 pages her book is one of the longest ever to be shortlisted, whereas Colm Tóibín’s, at barely a hundred pages, is one of the shortest.

Former judge Gaby Wood described it as the “Best Booker short list in living memory“. It is certainly the most American, in the sense that at least half of the shortlisted authors live or work in North America, as Philip Hensher recently pointed out.

This year’s judges are Robert Macfarlane, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Natalie Haynes, Martha Kearney and Stuart Kelly.

The winner of the £50,000 prize will be announced at The Guildhall, London, on October 15th.

September 10, 2013 at 10:51 am Leave a comment


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