Man Booker Longlist Feelings

It will loom over you from now until late September, get used to it

So, they’ve announced the Man Booker Prize Longlist for 2015! Those of us who like having the order and discipline of lists in our lives are quite excited by this, and, having glanced at it, I have to say it does make me slightly more hopeful than last year’s did. Firstly, the nationality breakdown is fairly heartening. Yes, there are more Americans than any other nationality, but there are three Brits represented, and one writer each from New Zealand, Ireland, India, Nigeria and Jamaica. As for the gender balance, that too is heartening; seven women on a list of thirteen is pretty good going, even for a contemporary prize.

  • Bill Clegg is the only one that I’ve genuinely never heard of (which is unsurprising, as this is his debut novel–he is, however, a hotshot agent in his own right). His book about a fire and familial secrets/trauma is Did You Ever Have A Family.
  • I have read Anne Enright’s novel The Gathering, which won the Booker Prize in 2007–I was about fourteen, which may have been too young to fully appreciate the virtues of a novel about child abuse in an Irish Catholic family, but I do wonder whether The Green Road will be too similar–it’s billed as an Irish family saga.
  • Marlon James is already high on my list of Authors To Read More Of: I read The Book of Night Women, about a Jamaican slave rebellion, in November, and was utterly bowled over. A Brief History of Seven Killings is one I’ll be looking to read.
  • I know next to nothing about Laila Lalami, although The Moor’s Account sounds amazing: an account of the exploits of the conquistadors, as told by one of their Moroccan slaves.
  • Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island struck me as almost unbearably precious when it first came out; a sort of wannabe David Foster Wallace-type meta-novel. I’m sure it’s very clever and probably reasonably well-judged, but I just don’t want it to win at all.
  • The Fishermen, by Chigoizie Obioma, is published by Pushkin Press, of which I am very fond, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. Hopefully, I can get hold of a copy to review soon.
  • Andrew O’Hagan is one of those authors whom I think I’ve read, but I haven’t. The catalogue copy for The Illuminations made it seem as though it could go either way (war, dual plot strands, memory, photography, etc.), but perhaps it’s worth a punt?
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson has been a contender since it was published last year. Everything Marilynne Robinson writes is a contender for something. I must read this.
  • Anuradha Roy is, again, an author about whom I know nothing, though the Guardian did a fascinating podcast about Sleeping on Jupiter a while back. More heavy child-abuse themes, this time with an Indian religious flavor instead of an Irish one…
  • Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways looked promising in catalogue: the story of thirteen young Indian immigrants living in a house in Sheffield, looking for new lives. The blurb is full of effulgent comments about how it celebrates the dignity of the human spirit, which makes me wary, but it could be true!
  • Anna Smaill’s The Chimes has been on my radar for a while, ever since Naomi tapped it for the Baileys Prize. It’s about a world where music replaces memory, and as a part-time musician with some interest in neurology and a lot of interest in identity, I think I’d probably enjoy it a great deal.
  • Anne Tyler, on the other hand, has never really piqued my interest, and A Spool of Blue Thread being nominated for both the Baileys and the Booker confuses me, because its premise seems intensely boring, like a rehash of The Corrections. But maybe it’s brilliant?
  • And, finally, Hanya Yanigihara’s A Little Life. I knew I wanted to read this before the nomination, but now it’s a dead cert. Described as “the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season […a]n epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light”, it looks superb.

You know what I can’t get over, though? The exclusion of Station Eleven and The Wolf Border, and of Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child, and also I’m a little bit surprised that The Buried Giant didn’t AT LEAST make the long list. But primarily I’m upset by the absence of The Wolf Border. Why don’t prize committees get it? Why don’t they see how revolutionary this book is, how casually it hurls narrative conventions about women and men and relationships out of the window? Why don’t they love its descriptions of Cumbria, its fells and lakes and green villages, and of Idaho’s dark and snowy roads, the way I do? Sigh.*

*(Because the way I feel about The Wolf Border is TRUE LOVE, that’s why. And prize committees are not in the business of fomenting true love, necessarily. It still disappoints me.)

Anyone read any of the books on this long list? Anyone have particular favorites? Anyone else disappointed not to see something on the list?

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14 thoughts on “Man Booker Longlist Feelings

  1. Hi I’m Shreya!
    Love the post. You have great content on your blog. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.
    I am relatively new to the blogging forum so please feel free to visit my blog and leave some feedback if you even find the time.
    Enjoy your summer.
    Smiles,
    Shreya xx
    shreya24x7.wordpress.com

  2. Thanks for the mention. I’m with you on The Wolf Border, as you know. As for the ones which actually made the list, my tip is A Little Life, which is an extraordinary novel. I’ve read four of the ones by women (and have two of the other three on my TBR) and they’re all very good. As for the men, I’m most interested in the Marlon James, Sunjeev Sahota and Bill Clegg. I read Clegg’s first memoir a few years ago now and it was brilliant. He’s a sublime writer and the fact the novel had a female protagonist makes it the stand out from the three white men on the list for me.

  3. I’ve not read any of them! However The Chimes is high on my list, and I already have the O’Hagan. I know it’s now an international prize, but I had hoped for more UK authors – and no Canadians – Us Conductors would have been eligible and everyone seems to have loved that book (another on my bedside pile).

    • Yes, actually, I hadn’t even thought about the lack of Canadians! (Poor things.) And more UK authors would be nice; I’m just pleased that the Americans haven’t taken over completely…

  4. Mike Evans says:

    I don’t understand why Americansd are included in the Booker stakes. It’s not as if we don’t have enough literary prizes. Of the nominees, I’ve read Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread. Typical Tyler: big eccentric family, big house, Baltimore.

    • The justification that I’ve read most often is that now it’s simply a prize for the best novel written in English during the past year, which makes sense in that it allows a lot of other terrific authors to be eligible. Unfortunately America is just very big and has a very influential publishing culture. Still, I’m pleased that there are only five on the list and not, say, ten. What did you think of the Tyler?

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