The Man Booker Prize

EDITED BELOW BECAUSE WHILE I WAS WRITING THIS, HAHAHA, THE LIST HAS BEEN RELEASED. TODAY IS THURSDAY I HAVE LOST TRACK OF TIME PROBABLY BECAUSE I AM ALMOST FINISHED MY STRUCTURAL EDIT AND MY BRAIN IS GONE GONE GONE. Sorry for shouting.

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The winner of the Baileys Prize — The Power by Naomi Alderman — does not appear on this list of likely contenders for the Booker long-list (due to be released tomorrow), written up by someone at The Guardian in the UK. I really like the way each title has a very short snappy descriptor. It is very hard to describe a book in a way that’s interesting and makes a reader want to read. For example, ‘Paul Aster’s one-man-four-lives breeze-block 4-3-2-1.’ The one man bit is obvious, and rather compelling. But what is a breeze-block? It makes me want to know. Does everyone except me know what a breeze-block is? I will away to Google once I’ve finished here.

There are the expected names – Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Colson Whitehead. And George Saunders, for his debut novel which I have, read a few pages of, liked but knew I had to be in a different head space to tackle such a thing.

One book that doesn’t seem to be getting the love-buzz (if we can have a breeze-block we can have love-buzz) is Arundhati Roy’s new novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Unlike most people, I only read her The God of Small Things last year (was it last year? My failed Year of Reading India?) and can remember very well what it was like. I didn’t love it. There were moments of lush, meaningful prose that was absolutely stunning (meaningful in that the imagery made sense; a lot of metaphoric language these days just doesn’t make any sense, as if people have put words together because they sound nice and they are trying to be uniquely creative) but for the most part it pretty much left me cold. It seemed naive. And straight after that I read Sir Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children — a masterpiece — and could see it was clearly inspiration for Roy’s lesser thing.

Other books in the Guardian list? A person could just base their reading on a list like this one:

‘Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13, … a book in many voices, which wonderfully records the human, animal and botanical rhythms of life in an English village.’

‘Mike McCormack’s single-sentence novel of life and death in rural Ireland, Solar Bones.’ Sounds intriguing doesn’t it? A single-sentence novel. Wow. It has to work somewhat surely, to have been published and be suggested in this list. But I can’t imagine it. It’s exciting to see form represented in this way.

‘Northern Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty makes an impressive return with his first novel in 16 years, Midwinter Break, out in August: the small details of an elderly couple’s trip to Amsterdam build into a profound portrait of ageing, alcoholism, faith and love.’ Might be time to re-visit some Irish misery fiction.

But I’m curious how a book that won the Baileys does not even rate a mention in this article. What is that about? I know there’s many books and many contenders. I started reading The Power and didn’t like the prose style / character voices, so didn’t finish. I was interested in the idea but not the execution.

Looking forward to see who makes the list.

EDIT – AND HERE IS THE LIST

Title Author (nationality) (imprint)

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4
th Estate)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

from the Man Booker website, along with judges’ comments

Huh. Roy is in there. Huh. And Salman isn’t.

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4 thoughts on “The Man Booker Prize

  1. The book that won the Baileys – The Power – I didn’t think it was very good. I think it won because of the idea – an inverted world where teenage girls have the power in their hands to kill men and how that then affects the power structures of the world – a strong feminist book. But it wasn’t very good. “Solar Bones” was blow your mind amazing. It just broke my heart in how it described the small yet important moments of a life in such poetry. But I love Irish writing – will have check out Bernard McLaverty! I hope Saunders wins the booker. That book is…..gobsmackingly brilliant on so many levels.
    Interestingly – does the winner of the Baileys prize ever make it onto the booker list??? One of the shortlisted was on it last year I think…The Madeleine Thein?? Do not say we have nothing?

    1. How interesting. I liked the premise of the power, did find it sort of cool, but glad you also think not very good. One thing I’m learning is that different awards have different purposes or slants and shifts are/have been happening over the last few years. I will get back to the George Saunders. I love him and his writing and his brain. The Saunders brain. Incredible. And the empathy. I will get Solar Bones for sure now, with your recommendation. I love Irish writing too, but haven’t read much of it. Adored (wrong word?) Anne Enright’s The Gathering and intend to also read her The Green Road soon. I have the Colson Whitehead, and Swing Time… ah Zadie Smith… I have all her novels and haven’t read a one. I had hopes for Swing Time but someone who I trust said it was a bit meh. That put me off.

    1. Autumn is fantastic on so many levels. Incisive, moving and imaginative and magical. And had a real urgency and relevance that was exciting. Anne Enright’s “the Green Road” is also terrific – she writes families so well and with great perception. And as someone from a large family (8 kids) I find it delightfully enlightening! I really want to read Underground Railroad. Heavily reserved at the library so waiting for my nimber to come up.

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