Every year I am enthralled by The Man Booker Prize longlist.
It was announced in The Guardian today. Ah, the joy of reading, or thinking about reading, the longlist of a famous prize!
Bloggers always support the prize. In 2009, Dovegreyreader and several other bloggers read the complete longlist. I, too, managed to read more than half the list that year, including two I had to order from the UK: A. S. Byatt’s brilliant The Children’s Book (should have won!) and Sarah Hall’s remarkable How to Paint a Dead Man.
I lost interest in the Booker in 2011. The judges chose a number of very violent novels, and I caught hell from a small press for a negative review of an extremely violent book (which is why I seldom deal with the divas of the tiny presses).
This year I’m changing all that. I intend to read half the longlist (half of a half will be sufficient). But it is a bizarre-o list, in that I’ve only heard of three of the books: Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room, Richard Powers’ The Trees, and Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight. And these three are doing very well here, as I imagine they are in the UK.
The big news: Nick Drasno’s Sabrina is the first graphic novel to make the Booker longlist. As my husband says, “That will be this year’s winner.”
Naturally, the British bloggers are annoyed about the three Americans on the list. I say with a hand on my hip: “Deal with it, honey.” For whatever reason, the Man (or Booker or whatever) company is determined to favor Americans. Famous writers have submitted petitions saying
Bring back the British!, and nothing has changed. What’s in it for the ManCo I couldn’t say.
But surely an American won’t win this year, after George Saunders and Paul Beatty’s wins in 2016 and 2017. But of course the graphic novel, Sabrina, is by an American.
And now here is the longlist. Let me know if anything looks good, or if you have plans to read the Booker list. Not all titles are available in the U.S. yet.
• Anna Burns, Milkman
• Nick Drnaso, Sabrina
• Esi Edugyan, Washington Black
• Guy Gunaratne, In Our Mad and Furious City
• Daisy Johnson, Everything Under
• Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room
• Sophie Mackintosh, The Water Cure
• Michael Ondaatje, Warlight
• Richard Powers, The Overstory
• Robin Robertson, The Long Take
• Sally Rooney, Normal People
• Donal Ryan, From a Low and Quiet Sea
I will give the list a go, but I don’t think I will be able to read all of the books. I’ll try to read at least the ones I already have: Kushner, Rooney, Mackintosh, and Burns. 🙂
You’re off to a good start!
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As you probably have guessed, the reason Americans are winning is the marketplace for buying in the US is much bigger than the UK. Americans also prefer books with Americans in them and American issues. The people funding the Mann Booker are investment funds and they decided they wanted to make much more money by reaching this big pool, and they want American books to win. Who is more famous than Lincoln? (last year). This skews the prize to the point that next time I teach a set of books I’ll stop or cut off what we consider from the time the US was included.
More than British bloggers are protesting — but we have no vote again. Supposedly there will be more variety. To me it’s indicative of something screwed up since the new American books all fit the pattern of the typical Booker Prize novel, which hitherto could have been seen as exploring the British commonwealth, while US history and culture are quite different.I’ve written blogs describing the typical Booker and Lincoln at the Bardo fit that formula to a T. I have noticed an increase in conservativism among the books chosen too. I wonder how much the Booker will begin to resemble the Pulitizer when say 3 books a year turn up as winners or nominees (very mainstream kinds of books — the protest element is usually an acceptable kind of protest — not that the older Bookers weren’t this).
Money is in it. And it’s being used as a more aggressive marketing tool lest “old foggie” taste (for say classic-like books) might deter younger readers, readers who have not read the older books (the ones PBS has in mind when it excludes film adaptations of classic books from its line-up).
Yes, I’m sure you’re right about the money involved. We already have so many prizes that we don’t need the Booker, for sure! I don’t think Saunders or Beatty really ARE the typical prize-winners–Saunders’s book is kind of postmodern, with a chorus of ghosts, or so I’ve heard. But it’s clear these Man people will not budge so the British may need a new award in addition to the Booker!
In a word, no. I’m afraid nothing from the list appeals. However, I’m currently very much enjoying the Man Booker International wiiner Flights – marvellous book!
The new books in translation are often more interesting than the new in English. I don’t know much about these, except for the few by big names.
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I just bought The Water Cure, it sounds so very good. I don’t know anything about any of the titles though really. I admit to having far less interest in the Booker than I once did.
It’s one of those that will not be published here till next year, alas. But I love to find books i’ve never heard of on these lists.