Man Booker Prize Longlist 2014

July 24, 2014 at 4:03 pm Leave a comment

The longlist for the new, more global (i.e. 30% American) Man Booker Prize for 2014 was announced yesterday*. Here it is:

Joshua Ferris – To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking)
Richard Flanagan – The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus)
Karen Joy Fowler – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent’s Tail)
Siri Hustvedt – The Blazing World (Sceptre)
Howard Jacobson – J (Jonathan Cape)
Paul Kingsnorth – The Wake (Unbound)
David Mitchell – The Bone Clocks (Sceptre)
Neel Mukherjee – The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus)
David Nicholls – Us (Hodder & Stoughton)
Joseph O’Neill – The Dog (Fourth Estate)
Richard Powers – Orfeo (Atlantic Books)
Ali Smith – How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton)
Niall Williams – History of the Rain (Bloomsbury)

So four American authors – who would previously have been ineligible – made the list, alongside two Irishmen, six Brits and an Australian. 

It seemed sadly ironic that on the opening day of the Commonwealth Games, Man Booker announced a list almost completely devoid of Commonwealth authors. It looks like abandonment. 

Another change is that there are now six judges, so the chair of the judges might now have to wield a casting vote. This year that honour (perhaps I should be spelling that ‘honor’ now Booker has given in to the US of A?) goes to the noted atheist philosopher AC Grayling. He blamed publishers for the lack of Commonwealth writers, suggesting that fewer had been submitted. Surely an inevitable consequence of opening the prize up to American writers, who have far less need for the exposure. (Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler had previously been fêted by Richard & Judy’s book club, for example. As had Joseph O’Neill, and David Nicholls and David Mitchell, come to think of it. Richard Madeley may be looking even smugger than usual today.)

One of the other judges, Sarah Churchwell, hinted via her (very active) Twitter account that some books which appear to have been ‘snubbed’ by the judges may not have been submitted for them to consider. I suspect this is the most likely explanation for the absence of The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winner.

The other judges are: Jonathan Bate, Dr Alastair Niven, Erica Wagner, and Dr Daniel Glaser – who is a neuroscientist. China Miéville must be kicking himself. An actual scientist on the panel the one year he doesn’t publish a book! Howard Jacobson’s excursion into speculative fiction suddenly seems well-timed. 

Despite my misgivings with the rule changes, I really do like the look of this list, it seems to be full of novels exploring ideas, as we might expect from a panel chaired by a philosopher. However, for me, the best book of the year is one that was not eligible for their consideration, being ‘only’ a young adult novel. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan is one of the wisest and most beautiful contemporary novels I’ve ever read, and ought to be on every school’s syllabus. (Not something the UK’s new Education Secretary would agree with, judging by her track record of opposing LGBT equality.)

The shortlist will be revealed on September 9th, and the £50,000 prize will be awarded at London’s Guildhall on October 14th.

*Sorry for not updating the blog this year, this is partly my pique at the rule changes, but mostly a result of not having internet access at home since being liberated from the frustration of getting repeatedly ripped-off by a company who shall remain nameless, but can fly their spaceships up the seventh planet from the Sun as far as I am concerned.

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Luminaries strikes gold The Significance of the Man Booker for Authors (by Jen Huyton)

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