The Man Booker Judges 2011… Can Judges Make A Prize More Interesting?

I am feeling a little bit fickle today. The reason I think this is all because of The Man Booker. I have to say I was a little disappointed with The Man Booker Prize winning novel this year, without having read it I will freely admit, and the prize in general. Wonderful titles like ‘The Long Song’ and ‘Room’ were included but I couldn’t get passionate about it like I did back in 2009 when ‘Wolf Hall’ won and I read the whole long list. I couldn’t be bothered about reading them all this year (and have culled quite a few of the titles I haven’t read that were in the long and short lists) the prize seemed to be really stuffy and trying to be trendy all at once. Though of course that could just be me who thought that?

However the fickle me is now quite excited about The Man Booker 2011 because of the announcement of the judges earlier today who are author Matthew d’Ancona (who I hadn’t heard of before), author Susan Hill, politician Chris Mullin, Head of Books at The Telegraph Gaby Wood and Dame Stella Rimmington who was the head . Rather an eclectic mix don’t you think?

I don’t know two of the judges, sorry, but the other three I am really intrigued and pleased about. I am not majorly into politics but I am a big fan of Chris Mullin and his political views so that’s endeared me to him, we have something in common to a degree, though I do wonder if people will be a bit ‘why is a politician judging a book prize’? I am of course ecstatic that one of my favourite authors Susan Hill is one of the judges I need say no more. The one I am most excited about is Dame Stella Rimmington… because she worked for blinking MI5!!! I wonder if this could be the year for crime appearing more heavily on the list with her and Susan Hill at the helm.

Interestingly as ‘The Green Carnation Prize 2010’ draws to a close with the winner announced next Wednesday and yet we are already working on ‘The Green Carnation Prize 2011’ and currently its judges, some of us are staying and some sadly just have too manic a year but maybe joining as ‘guest judges’ after longlists and shortlists are announced, it’s a different way forward for a judging panel but will mean new insights at each stage and yet some of the same faces year by year. So we have been looking at who we should approach and why which has had me thinking a lot about judges and their appeal, so I thought I might ask you your thoughts!

Does who is on a panel affect what you think of an award? Can certain judges endear you and if so why? Would any particular people put you off? Who, if you created an award for books, would you love to have on your five piece judging panel along side you and why?

7 Comments

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7 responses to “The Man Booker Judges 2011… Can Judges Make A Prize More Interesting?

  1. novelinsights

    Definitely interesting to have Susan Hill on the panel, and yes I do think different judges can make a prize more interesting – a bit like XFactor if that’s not to henious a comparison!!

  2. well last time hill was on panel was a shortlist of two ,a diverse judging panel and think that next year there may not be a huge ex winner with a book out makes it a interesting year anyway ,all the best stu

  3. gaskella

    As long as the judges have a ‘reading pedigree’ I don’t mind what field they come from. They don’t have to be writers, but they do have to be good readers and able to explain what/why they enjoy a particular book etc. (like yourself of course 😉 )

  4. I used to follow the Booker Prize closely. We don’t have anything like it here in the U.S. Our National Book Award comes close, but no cigar.

    That said, after Child 44 made the long list I’ve been much more skeptical of the Booker Prize. I’m sure that the quality of the judges has a powerful effect. But I suspect the submission process has a much stronger one. The panel only looks at submitted books, rather than the larger pool of all books, yes. Because of this, the long list tends to be dominated by mainstream titles. Those of us who read more on the margins must look to other awards.

  5. Chris Mullin is a long established writer, now best known for his two volumns of political memoirs, excerpts from both of which were brilliantly serialised on Radio 4. Prior to that, his best known book was probably “A Very British Coup”, a piece of fiction inspired by the turblulent political atmosphere of the 1970s. With both him and Susan Hill on the judging panel, it’s already close to any fantasy version I could come up with.

    Stella Rimmington has written a series of page-turning spy novels, quite different from the sort of thing that typically gets shortlisted for the Booker. I don’t think her presence on the panel will of itself make for a radically different list, since authors do not necessarily write the same kind of thing as they admire reading.

  6. I agree that this year didn’t feel as exciting to me as the Wolf Hall win. A lot of people are saying ‘oh isn’t it much better when there’s no clear big winner book of the year’ but seem to forget that during the Mantle year there was also The Little Stranger. The contest between them felt like a close race, with a lot of excitment around excellent books and I’d have been happy to see either win The Booker, because they were both absolutely fantastic.

    Honestly I’m a bit unsure about two of this judging panel, so I’m glad you’ve highlighted the positive side, which is more crime on the list possibly.

  7. Interesting judge selection! I’m curious how it will change things.

    BTW My husband is currently reading The Finkler Question and finding it fascinating. Definitely a dark horse winner.

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