Begin the Booker Beguine (Again)

on Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Well, we're just hours away from the announcement of this year's Booker long list and, I can't help but feel, this will be the most hotly debated bunch of books ever. Yep, this year marks the first time that nominees aren't limited to Commonwealth authors but anyone writing in the English language. No doubt you'll recall the big brouhaha when the rules were changed - you'd have been forgiven for thinking the British literary Empire had fallen. Well, we're about to learn how it's going to pan out. Ironically, Team Booker couldn't have chosen a worse (or perhaps better) year to open the floodgates. A quick look at the list of eligible books from just the old Commonwealth countries and I find myself in some sort of book nerd heaven. So many previous winners and nominees have new books - Ian McEwan, David Mitchell, Colm Toibin, Phillip Hensher, Sebastian Barry, Nicola Barker, Damon Galgut, Sarah Waters, Edward St Aubyn... hell, even the new Martin Amis looks promising after a run of complete duds. I can't help but smirk at the misfortune of the also-rans who truly ought to be in contention this year but may well miss out thanks to the former colony with the grating accent. On the other hand, whatever the list, we can safely say that literature from the Commonwealth has never looked quite so bloody healthy.

As for my tips... Hmmm... I'd love to see Jesse Ball, Elimear McBride, Darragh McKeon, Phil Klay and Jenny Offill on the list. I suspect Donna Tartt, Joshua Ferris, Dave Eggars or Peter Mathiessen might get a look in. But when the dust settles I'm betting the prize stays in the Commonwealth for at least one more year and I'd say the guy to do that will be David Mitchell. We'll know if I'm even slightly on target in just a few hours.


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