Guys, the Man Booker is looking a little different this year, right? It’s not just me? Even last year the longlist was starting to shed some of its portly, writerly style, casting off its tweed jacket and nicotine stained fingers for a more middle of the road, blazer with jeans kinda style. This year, we’re almost verging on skinny jeans and a subtle tattoo.
There’s a lot of fuss in the broadsheets about some of the more prominent omissions – Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, John Banville – and even a slightly barbed comment from Peter Stothard, chair of the judges: “We were looking for books that you can make a sustained critical argument about, and when you read them again, you can make a different critical argument – not for books you can just say ‘wow, I enjoyed it’, or ‘wow, that was terrible. Some novels by well-known authors passed the Man Booker test as to whether or not they repay rereading – there are a few well-established names there, Frayn, Barker, Mantel. But there are also books by very fine writers who didn’t pass that test, or who came up shorter than those who did.” Ouch…
Overall, I’m loving the trend toward younger, newer writers, despite feeling a bit sorry for Zadie Smith’s being omitted. I can’t wait to read Ned Beauman’s novel, as I thought his debut Boxer Beetle was fantastic. At just 27, he’s the youngest on the longlist and officially my hero. Also high on my reading list are The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Umbrella, both of which I’m hoping live up to their interesting-sounding premises. I mean, hello: a book about a maverick psychiatrist attempting to awaken victims of sleeping sickness after WW1? Count me in, pal.
I haven’t personally read any of the longlist just yet. Only 5 of the 12 have been available for more than a couple of weeks, and several are yet to be released. Bring up the Bodies is patiently waiting on my shelves, catching my eye whenever I turn my head nearby. I’m currently debating whether to blow a wad of Amazon vouchers I have on the hardbacks, or go with Kindle copies. I’m finding I’m not using my Kindle that much, but I suspect that might be a psychological thing, and perhaps a ton of good books on there would help me out.
So here’s the longlist in full, chaps. Any thoughts? Suggestions?
Nicola Barker, The Yips
Ned Bauman, The Teleportation Accident
Andre Brink, Philida
Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists
Michael Frayne, Skios
Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (and other stories)
Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies
Alison Moore, The Lighthouse
Will Self, Umbrella
Jeet Thavil, Narcopolis
Sam Thompson, Communion Town