The Man Booker prize longlist for 2014 has just been published and I am surprised to see how many unknown names there are. For the first time, the prize is not restricted to British and Commonwealth fiction, but includes all English language fiction. The fear was that the list would be dominated by American literary giants, but that has clearly not happened. Sure, there are a few Americans, some of whom we recognise, but the big names are not nearly as dominating as they could (or should?) have been.
Of the six British novels on the list, we have more familiar names such as Howard Jacobson, David Mitchell, David Nicholls and Ali Smith, but there are also notable omissions such as Booker prize longlist perennial Ian McEwan and his new book The Children’s Act and Sarah Water’s novel The Paying Guests. Both books will be published later this summer and I haven’t read them yet, perhaps they were simply not good enough?
Another interesting omission is American Donna Tartt’s bestselling, but unevenly reviewed The Goldfinch.
I guess the proof of what an unexpected list this is in the bookies’ odds which are all over the place, not helped by the fact that five of the books have not been published yet and have not had a public reception.
The main casualty of the new Booker prize rules seems to be diversity. Where are all the Commonwealth writers, a trademark of the Booker prize? The Indian, the African and the Caribbean?
This year’s favourite? David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, rumoured to be very good. We shall see when it comes out in September.
This year’s most interesting underdog has surely got to be Paul Kingsnorth’s crowd funded book The Wake. Quite an achievement to attract the Booker judges’ attention as a self-published author! Is this the way forward?
The shortlist will be announced on the 9th of September and the winner on the 14th of October.
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris (American)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan (Australian)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (American)
The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt (American)
J, Howard Jacobson (British)
The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth (British)
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (British)
The Lives of Others, Neel Mukherjee (British)
Us, David Nicholls (British)
The Dog, Joseph O’Neill (Irish/American)
Orfeo, Richard Powers (American)
How to be Both, Ali Smith (British)
History of the Rain, Niall Williams (Irish)
I am starting off with The Bone Clocks and I have heard good things about To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, so I will try that too. What will you try?