Guessing The Man Booker Longlist 2011

It is the big day in publishing when the Man Booker Longlist is announced and I have to say I have been getting rather excited about it as it’s got nearer, which was not what I was expecting after the winner was announced. I seemed to have gotten into a state of mind that actually the Man Booker was a little out of touch. Why that is I can’t say now. Anyway, it’s great to play the guessing game before a longlist is announced and rather than just give you a list of the books I thought I would share with you a piece I did on the Man Booker Longlist 2011 for We Love This Book, let me know what you think of my choices and reasons…

“Predicting the Man Booker longlist is really an impossible mission—I mean, apart from the judges and a very select group, who really knows what on earth gets submitted and which novels make the grade? And yet we all love to do it. It’s like having a harmless little flutter without needing to spend any money placing a bet.

I am unusually excited about this year’s prize. I don’t know if it’s the panel (which includes ex-MI5 Stella Rimmington and the delightfully arch author Susan Hill) or if it’s because I have found the last year very exciting for fiction. Particularly in terms of d ébut authors and female writing—the Orange shortlist was stunning this year, and I am hoping for the same with the Booker and several other prizes as the year unfolds.

Already I have a feeling there is going to be a shock with the longlist. As with last year’s McEwan and Amis no shows, I think we could have the same with Adiga, Ghosh, Enright and Hollinghurst this year. All of these have fallen through my letterbox, all have been tried, and yet none really held me. I have only so far finished one of them, The Stranger’s Child, which, whilst being some of the most beautiful prose I have read all year, didn’t half sag in the middle. That, of course, is just my personal opinion. I can only base my guesses on the criteria that I would have should I be a judge on this year’s panel.

I would want books that are simply “great books”, beautifully written and addictively readable with characters who walk off the page, books that deal with subject matters, periods of time, events or places I know nothing about and books that touch me emotionally and “get me” in some way. With that in mind, these are the 13 eligible books (not all have been featured on my blog yet) that I would fight for…

On Canaan’s Side – Sebastian Barry
Jamrach’s Menagerie – Carol Birch
Everything Beautiful Began After – Simon Van Booy
 The Proof of Love – Catherine Hall
Gillespie and I – Jane Harris
King of the Badgers – Philip Hensher
Anatomy of a Disappearance – Hisham Matar
Ours are the Streets – Sunjeev Sahota
There but for the – Ali Smith
The Dubious Salvation of Jack V – Jaques Strauss
Go To Sleep – Helen Walsh
Bed – David Whitehouse
Annabel – Kathleen Winter

Those are, of course, in alphabetical order of authors’ surnames, so you can’t see which are my very favourites just yet. I haven’t managed to get my hands on a few of the “bigger” names I’d have liked to—in particular A L Kennedy and Michael Ondaatje (who might miss out with the previous winner curse that I think might be coming)—nor have I yet read some of the lesser-known books like The Sentamentalists, Bernard Beckett’s August or Gail Jones’ Five Bells—I am rather keen to spend a few hours with the latter three in particular. I also keep mulling over Then by Julie Myerson, which I am about to start. You see, this year is a really strong year—I could never possibly get it right.

In fact I would say I would be more than happy if I was completely wrong and the list was filled with what Susan Hill (on the Man Booker forum) has called “some splendid out of the way novels”. Whilst it would be quite something to have guessed the unguessable, I think in honesty I would rather see a list of 12 or 13 books I hadn’t heard of that really excite me. Even if it would add a whole heap of new reading material to my never-ending list.”

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6 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker

6 responses to “Guessing The Man Booker Longlist 2011

  1. Interesting selection! Simon Van Booy is a good choice. I hadn’t thought about him, but if he is eligible then I wouldn’t be surprised to see him there.

    I love your list and I’m sure I’ll prefer it to the real list, but I am intrigued by Hill’s mention of “out of the way novels” I really hope they introduce us to some fantastic new books.

    • Well it certainly introduced us to a lot of new books didn’t it? I was very surprised by the list, then very excited, now I am a little bit more ‘what?’ about the list. I am mulling over what I think will make the shortlist.

      Thanks for your kind words about my choices.

  2. It’s not going to be nominated (because The Booker seems to espouse an institutional disregard of anything which isn’t hyper-real, or at least naturalistic) – but ‘Embassytown’ by China Mieville really is one of the most intelligent, literary and beautiful novels of the year. It’s an incredible examination of pre-lapsarian linguistic possibilities, and features an alien race who have a system of perfect signification – (which means they can’t lie, as there’s no gap between their signs and signifieds). It’s also formally experimental and features bizarre neologisms and font lay-outs. It really tries to push boundaries (whether successful or not is down to the caprice of the individual reader) and surely, as such, it deserves a nod of the head?

    So, I’d love, love, love Embassytown to be nominated – not only would it be very ballsy of the judges – it would also be a giant coup for sci-fi, *and* it might shed some myths about the transient nature of such writing. It doesn’t have to win or anything, but just a nomination would help re-establish the Booker in the eyes of some readers, as the prize is fast becoming known as a *genre* award for the middle-brow, rather than a truly inclusive award for the best in all fiction writing, which is what it self-purports to be. So nominating Mieville could only be a good, progressive thing for all concerned?

    I’d also like to see ‘Wild Abandon’ by Joe Dunthorne nominated, just because the Comic novel is rarely taken seriously as literary – and this one really is brilliant.

    There’s my two-cents, anyways.

    Great article btw!
    Tomcat.

    • Well sadly Tom neither of those books made the list. I almost suggested Mieville’s novel myself (I havent read Dunthorne I’m sorry to say, well sort of sorry, I cant work out if I would like him or not) but I just didnt think the Booker judges would get it, mind you who knows if it was even submitted?

  3. Oh dear I now have a whole bunch of books added to my wishlist on amazon, and I think I’ll succumb to buying Tomcat’s suggestion as soon as I’ve finished typing this.
    I haven’t read any new fiction this year apart from Nicole Krauss’ offering which I didn’t really enjoy, I’m hoping that one isn’t on the list. Last year was the first time in ages when I didn’t read any of the books, normally I try and read some of the longlist and then nearly everything on the shortlist. I think this year I’ll be trying to read as many as possible.
    My reading side thanks you for your recommendations, my purse less so 😉

    • Krauss wasn’t eligable, I weirdly really liked that book though, so thats interesting.

      Sorry if have recommended too many books for your purse… actually, no, I’m not hahahaha.

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