No Prizes For Guessing The Booker Longlist

on Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Well, silly season is officially upon us with the announcement today of the Booker Prize longlist. Suffice to say it isn't the most daring bunch of books which, if the prize is not to continue its ascent up its own literary rectum, is actually a good thing. There are lots of familiar names, very little experimental fiction and, for me, a good few weeks' worth of reading.

If you haven't seen it yet:

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
Room by Emma Donoghue
The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore
In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
C by Tom McCarthy
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
February by Lisa Moore
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
Trespass by Rose Tremain
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner

Safe money would have to be on David Mitchell who many people thought was robbed when he didn't win for Cloud Atlas. Booker judging panels are in the habit of giving consolation prizes to the novel after the one that ought to have won (I'm talking about you Ian McEwan). Peter Carey could be the first writer to bag the hatrick, which would make sense given that he was the first to score a second with The True History of The Kelly Gang. And then there's Andrea Levy who won the Orange Prize for Small Island. I heard her read from The Long Song recently and, if the rest of the book is anything like the few passages she read, I'd be quite chuffed if she won. In fact, this is the first year I remember liking more than half of the list. It'd be a great coup for hip young writers if Tom McCarthy won. He is the Commonwealth's answer to Dave Eggers, a one man creative cultural machine. Then there's Paul Murray's Skippy Dies which has been the unexpected hit of the past six months. It'd have to be in with a good chance. And, as you might expect it, there is a little parochial villager in me gunning for Christos Tsiolkas (who, if he was ever going to win it, probably should have for the fabulous Dead Europe), though said villager has to fight it out with my shtetl dwelling alter ego who has a soft spot for Howard Jacobson.

I'm glad to say I've only read one of the books on the list so far (Damon Galgut's not-really-fictional In A Strange Room). I have another four on my bedside table and another already on order at ShAmazon. The rest will be snapped up forthwith. It's clear the judging panel have harked back to the golden age of the novel, a time when well-told stories mattered more than spectacular stylistic contortions. I'm sure the stuffy literati will slam them for their cowardice but I for one, as a simple reader and lover of a good tall tale, am quietly thankful. Now I'm going to lock myself in a room and plough through them. The sign is up. Do Not Disturb!


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