The Woman Question: The Man Booker Prize Longlist

man_booker_prize_logoThe internet has ruined literary awards for me.

Every year there is a new Man Booker Prize scandal.

I used to love the Booker Prize and have over the years read some great books on shortlists and longlists.

But, due to the fabulous invention of WiFi, I  can now read endless, wearisome Man Booker Prize gossip in The Guardian and other papers.  They report on the judges’ latest faux pas (and really why should we care?), the writers’ insane outbursts, and the bookies’ odds on the winner.  I love the longlist and the shorlist, but by the time the award is announced, I no longer care.

And now let me join the scandal rehashers.

This year’s scandal is woman-related.  The writer Kathy Lette complained to The Telegraph that there are only three women on the Booker longlist:  Ali Smith, Karen Joy Fowler and Siri Hustvedt.

I didn’t notice, because my feminist antennae are on vacation for the summer, and I mostly read dead writers anyway.  I may have a slight bias in favor of women writers, but we’re lucky in this era to find ANY good books, so gender doesn’t matter.  As one of my friends recently wrote, “I’m surprised there are any books left.”

But now I have to consider the woman question again.  Here I am, in late middle age, and nothing has changed since I was a young woman in the ’70s.

I’m reminded of Norman Mailer’s silly arguments that women couldn’t write.  He said he wrote with his penis.  That must have been very painful.

On the longlist are:

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

The only one I’ve read is Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Prize.  I loved it, it is one of the best books I’ve read this year, but it might be a little too short for the Booker.  Don’t they usually go for the doorstops?

The other big scandal this year:  no Canadians on the longlist.

5 thoughts on “The Woman Question: The Man Booker Prize Longlist

  1. TBH, I abandoned caring about the Booker years ago – but then like you I tend to read old books!

  2. I used to love the booker. I generally read the winner. However I am starting to care less and less -partly because I read more old books and partly because I just don’t care much anymore – and I have just abandoned The Blazing World 18 % in on my kindle so that might be it for this year.

  3. Karen, I do like the look of many of these books on the list, but only five of them (I think) are available in the U.S. Can you believe that one year I ordered a couple of the longlisted books from the UK? Fortunately I got two good ones: a Sebastian Barry and an Alan Hollingshurst.

    Heavenali, I think 18% is PLENTY to read of a book you don’t like. I very much admired Hustedt’s novel The Sorrows of an American, but am not familiar with her other work. I’m trying to get into the Booker spirit, but it’s very hard when so few of the books are available.

  4. Annabel, that seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? There are some high-power books on this list, by Richard Flanagan, David Mitchell, etc., so why didn’t the publishers release them in the UK BEFORE the Booker Prize longlist?

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