Monday, 26 July 2010

The Man Booker Longlist

Tomorrow (Tuesday 27th July) is one of my favourite days of the year. All the debate and discussion, the tooing and froing of preference and rationalism, comes together and we find out which twelve or thirteen books have made the MAN Booker Dozen.

It may not be particularly to my credit that I set such standards by the MAN Booker, but when the list is announced tomorrow, I will go through it and I'll find four or five books I might otherwise not have chosen to read, that I now wish to purchase before the shortlist is announced in September. This is generally a fertile time of year for the reader in me, and one of the only time's when I don't know what it is that I might be compelled to read. That's exciting to me, as is this build-up.

Actually predicting what will make the longlist is almost impossible since it is determined largely by two difficult questions: what the publishers submit as their two choices, and the taste of the judges themselves. However, I have a few thoughts and it seems likely that the majority of those longlisted will come from the following extensive list.

Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor is by far the stand out novel of the year for me and judging by everything I read is an absolute certainty to make the list. It will be joined by David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoot and probably perenial Booker favourites Ian McEwan (for Solar) and Peter Carey (for Parrot and Olivier). Of the other former winners, it seems unlikely that Roddy Doyle (The Dead Republic), Yann Martel (Beatrice and Virgil) or DBC Pierre (Light's Out in Wonderland) will make the grade and neither will Martin Amis (The Pregnant Widow). Philip Pullman might be in with a longshot for The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundral Christ though reception was mixed and its controversial subject matter could work for or against it. 

That leaves the door open for a number of slightly less prominant authors to step up and receive some of the acclaim they deserve. Helen Dunmore (The Betrayal), Andrea Levy (The Long Song), Rose Tremain (Tresspass), Maggie O'Farrell (The Hand That First Held Mine) and Catherine Flynn (The News Where You Are) appear the most likely women to feature, though less known female authors such as Aminatta Forna (The Memory of Love) Emma Donoghue (Room), Scarlett Thomas (Our Tragic Universe), Louise Doughty (Whatever You Love), Ruth Padel (Where the Serpent Lives), Emily Mackie (And This is True) and Nicola Barker (Burley Cross Postbox Theft) could also be in with a shout.

Previously longlisted authors James Robertson (And The Land Lay Still) and Damon Galgut (In A Strange Room) look good condidates, though Jim Crace (All That Follows), Howard Jacobson (The Finkler Question) and Andrew O'Hagan (The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Owner Maralyn Monroe) would seem less likely. Mick Jackson might be an outside possibility for The Widow'sTale.

Three books with plenty of buzz around them are Gerard Woodward's Nourishment, The Old Spring by Richard Francis and The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas's, and you might expect at least two of them to make the list. They could potentially be joined by Joseph O'Connor (Ghost Light), Neel Mukherjee (A Life Apart), Tom McCarthy (C) and Ed Hillyer (The Clay Dreaming). 

Steven Amsterdam could be in with a shout for his collection of linked stories Things We Didn't See Coming, though whether he qualifies either as a commonwealth citizen or a writer of fiction might prove debatable. Then there are Tom Rachman (The Imperfectionists), Grant Gillespie (The Cuckoo Boy), Dan Rhodes (Little Hands Clapping) and Stevie Davies (Into Suez) that might sneak in as well.

Over recent years, the judges have also sought to expand the boundaries of what is considered a Booker novel with the inclusion of Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith and Me Cheeta by Cheeta, but it is almost impossible to speculate as to what this might be. China Mieville and PD James have been proposed as possibles though both are probably too well established within their genre to be considered. It may not be eligable as books have to have been published in an adult edition to be considered, but Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness would be a worthy choice. And with its spectacular literary prose and rumination of big socio-political concepts it would have sat comfortably alongside whichever books do eventually make it.

But who knows? That's the beauty of prizes. For all the discussion and speculation and name droppping, its solely down to 6 judges who are, by now, probably sick of reading contemporary fiction. I'll look forward to the announcement with eager excitement.


farmlanebooks said...

Fantastic summary! You've mentioned almost all the books that I was considering adding to my Booker prediction. The only books that you haven't mentioned are Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco (winner of Man Asian Booker prize that I think has big short list potential)
The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna (wonderful book about child birth which is a cert for Orange prize 2011 if it fails to make Booker)
and Rupture by Simon Lelic (a fantastic crime book which is like an original hybrid of Notes on a Scandal and We Need to Talk about Kevin. I have high hopes for its inclusion this year.)

I'm very excited about the Booker list, whatever makes it!

Juxtabook said...

I have just realised that you've linked to my blog. Thank you very much, I'll return the compliment.

Sam Ruddock said...

I hadn't heard of any of those books you mention. Will definitely check them out. Rupture seeems to have fantastic amazon reviews!