Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The 2015 Man Booker Prize Longlist

The longlist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize was revealed at noon today.
The thirteen books in contention for the £50,000 prize are:

Bill Clegg - Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape)           
Anne Enright - The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)
Marlon James - A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
Laila Lalami - The Moor's Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)
Tom McCarthy - Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
Chigozie Obioma - The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
Andrew O’Hagan - The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)
Marilynne Robinson - Lila (Virago)           
Anuradha Roy - Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
Sunjeev Sahota - The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
Anna Smaill - The Chimes (Sceptre)
Anne Tyler - A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
Hanya Yanagihara - A Little Life (Picador)

Back in the eighties, when I first had a home computer, I decided it would be worth trying to win the pools by using it to predict the football results. Oh, the optimism of youth. I wrote a program to calculate the most likely score draws from a variety of data: previous results, current form, newspaper tipsters etc. Then ran it for several weeks, tweaking the weightings given to the various factors until it became quite good at predicting…the predictable draws – which was usually about half of them. Obviously it was completely hopeless at predicting the unexpected. Who can foresee rain falling from a clear blue sky? Indeed, the UK Met Office seems incapable of predicting rain full stop.

Why am I telling you this? Is it because I hope that one of the judges will be reading and might suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he could save taxpayers some money by privatising our hopeless Met Office? (Want to know what the weather is like? Look out the window! As Jeremy Paxman once told Newsnight viewers.) No. It’s just to point out the surprisingly similar degree of unpredictability between twenty-two grown adults kicking a ball around and half-a-dozen others judging literary fiction. Bill Who? Marlon James?!

Marlon James is the first Jamaican-born author to be longlisted for the prize, and Laila Lalami the first from Morocco - although both now reside in the USA; while Bill Clegg is “an American literary agent known for his ruthless negotiating” according to The Guardian. I’m not sure whether they are trying to imply anything by that.

There will be a number of reactions to this longlist. Someone somewhere will mishear and think: Nick Clegg up for the Booker Prize? I didn’t know manifestoes were eligible? Many will be pleased to see that women are in the majority, some will decry the fact that Americans outnumber Brits in only the second year they have been eligible. Others will be off to the bookies to put a bet on Hanya Yanagihara. A Little Life? Big favourite.

The list of those “snubbed” this year includes: Harper Lee (told you so), Salman Rushdie (twenty years since he was last shortlisted), Kate Atkinson (who has still, amazingly, never once pinged the Booker radar), Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen and Kazuo Ishiguro - so you can cross them off your posh bingo cards. I decided in advance that if Quicksand by Steve Toltz was not on their list, then either the judges are on the wrong wavelength, or I am. Admittedly I have only read the first chapter so far – but, sheesh, it’s already streets ahead of a couple on the list that I have read. To be fair, the judges have read 156 books and the longlist “could have been twice as long” according to Michael Wood, this year’s chair of the judging panel.

The shortlist will be announced on September 15th, and the winner on October 13th.

Here’s something for those of you who like trivia: nine of the last eleven Man Booker winners had titles beginning with the definite article, and the other two were both by Hilary Mantel. Add to My MSN Add to My Yahoo! Add to Google - Get paid to have your say


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