The Man Booker Longlist 2011… Thoughts

I do love the general buzz, most often in a form of outrage, that the Man Booker Longlist seems to bring out after its announcement and this years seems to be one of the strongest case of a ‘what?!!?’ moment I have seen in a while. People seem up in arms about how their favourite books are missing, there’s a lot of ‘what were the judges thinking’ being bandied about too. Personally after my initial ‘oh no, where are Jane Harris, Ali Smith, Kathleen Winter and Catherine Hall’ (possibly my favourite fiction reads of the year so far) moment I looked at the list and the more I think about it the more interesting in seems.

There is no using bemoaning the books I think should have made the cut, I don’t know why people go on about this so much. The thing with the Man Booker Longlist is that we don’t know if the publisher submitted our favourites, they have a small remit, or not do we? We also need to remember like reviews and book clubs every judging panel is subjective. Four of the five might have been passionate about my personal favourites, but all five of them might have been passionate about 13 more of them instead. Who knows, what can we do about it now? I think we should be focusing on what makes this list very exciting, and also what makes the list show publishing is far from dead. Which I actually wrote about in a piece for We Love This Book, feel free to have a look, on the Booker Longlist called ‘Big Guns and Bridesmaids’.

I won’t focus on the titles I am not fussed about on the list here, reviews are coming of some of them, but I will say a big hooray for Sebastian Barry and a bigger hooray (I know that’s a tiny bit of favouritism) for Carol Birch. If a Victorian adventure won the Man Booker this year I would be thrilled. However the list is made up of lots and lots of books I hadn’t heard of, and as time goes on its these I am getting more and more excited by. Patrick deWitt, Yvvette Edwards, Alison Pick and Esi Edugyan weren’t four names that were really bandied about in the lead up to and ‘guessing’ of the longlist. I hadn’t heard of the last three at all. Yet all of these novels look rather exciting and are interestingly the ones that I now want to get my hands on first, they feel like unchartered waters, annoyingly these are also the books that I don’t own. Typical. In fact I only have five of the titles, three of which I have read (wouldn’t it be off if these made the short list)…

What for me though is most exciting is not only the fact that almost a quarter of the titles are debut novels with Stephen Kelman, A.D. Miller, Yvvette Edwards and Patrick McGuinness all being long listed for their first novels – this is a continuation of a trend which was previously shown in the level of debuts in the Orange Prize lists earlier this year. The prize shows an almost landslide victory for independent publishers  with nine out of the thirteen titles not coming from the big gun publishing houses. This seems to be giving a very positive message to the state of fiction today and one that seems to fly in the face of the doubters who believe that the publishing industry is dying when so much new talent, along with independent publishers, that seem to be flourishing as far as the awards are concerned.

That to me is something to be celebrating with this list, along with the fact that some titles we might have missed have been brought to our attention. Is anyone going to try and read the whole lot? I’m not sure with my reading remit at the moment I could, which is annoying as it’s the year that I think I would most like to. Maybe I can sneak a few of them in?

P.S This is my last Man Booker Longlist discussion on Savidge Reads until I start popping up reviews of the titles, and speaking of reviews, get ready for a ‘review rush’ I have a backlog.

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12 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker

12 responses to “The Man Booker Longlist 2011… Thoughts

  1. And what about Jubilate by Michael Arditti!

    • I didn’t know if that one had been submitted, thats one of the things with book prizes, I think submissions should be left a secret in a weird way as it adds to the whole thing and all the debate.

  2. I agree with you. At first I was quite surprised with the choices mainly because I haven’t heard of most of them. I did my research and posted about it and actually the list is starting to look more interesting. I hope I get to read a few of them before September 6th.

  3. gaskella

    I’m rather liking the list. I’ve only read one and loved it – Patrick DeWitt. I’m looking forward to the Patrck McGuinness which I bought this week – just before the announcement.

  4. I ll maybe read a couplke ,i m just worried such a brash list is a step away from what the booker is ,it strange so many other list had same books on most missed the cut ,I ll watch with interest the short list as there are three that are booker books on the list and see if they make it ,all the best stu

  5. I thought the list was inspiring. To me, the Booker has always been about taking chances on books I would normally pass by or may not hear of. This years longlist has a lot of exciting titles that I’ve only really heard of because of the list.

    I’ve had about half of the list arrive, now and have just started Half Blood Blues, which, 100 pages in, is a pretty great suspenseful novel. Can’t wait to read more of them!

    Regardless who is in the longlist, we as readers, win.

    • I like what you say about us winning as readers no matter what and I think on the whole I would agree with that one indeed. Its an interesting list, not perfect but very interesting and yes I have been won over by a couple of books that I would never have read if it wasnt for the prize.

  6. bookgazing

    And the gender balance isn’t bad either for The Booker.

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