Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Man Booker Prize... The Who, What, Where of this Literary Honor

On Tuesday July 28th the 2009 Man Booker Dozen were announced. The Man Booker Dozen is like a baker's dozen, because it's a list of 13 books that are chosen to compete for the coveted Man Booker Prize for Fiction. This list is also called the longlist, because on Sept. 8th of this year the list will get smaller (also known as the shortlist) until Oct. 6th when the Man Booker Prize will be awarded.

What exactly is The Man Booker Prize? The prize, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, aims to reward the best novel of the year. Books eligible for the Man Booker prize must be written in English, but not by an author from the USA. So Australians, Indians, Irish, Canadians and Caribbean authors, amongst others, are eligible. Actually any citizen from the Commonwealth or The Republic of Ireland. Past winners are automatically considered, as are those short-listed in the past ten years. The novel must be an original work in English (not a translation), full length and must not be self-published. The judges on the panel include a literary critic, an academic, a literary editor, a novelist and a major figure. Publishers can submit 2 books. And then there's something called "The Call In's"... those are other titles beyond the publishers limit of 2 books that they wish the judges to consider. And the judges are obligated to "call in" 8 to 15 additional titles. But it seems the judges usually find these books "entertaining" more than anything else. The prize is $50,000 GBP or $82,432 in US dollars. But the money isn't the only thing that the writer receives- he or she achieves an amazing amount of worldwide fame & publicity!

But what I found really interesting was reading the judges blog on the Man Booker Prize website! In their blog they "talk" about the process of picking the books... how every year the judges identify themes. This year there were quite a few books about the WWII. ( Our book club saw that in more than a few choices we read this year!) They also talk about the liberties some authors take with historical fiction- are inaccuracies a killer? They also pay attention to best and worst opening sentences.... And they read all the books submitted, which this year was well over 100! Here's a link to the Judges Blog if you'd like to read it! And here's the link to the Chair's Blog, who also gives us some interesting insights.

So, Here's the Man Booker Prize Longlist:

AS Byatt..................... The Children's Book

J M Coetzee............... Summertime

Adam Foulds............. The Quickening Maze

Sarah Hall.................. How to paint a dead man

Samantha Harvey..... *The Wilderness

James Lever.............. Me Cheeta

Hilary Mantel............ Wolf Hall

Simon Mawer............ The Glass Room

Ed O'Loughlin............ Not Untrue & Not Unkind

James Scudamore..... Heliopolis

Colm Toibin ............... *Brooklyn

William Trevor .......... Love and Summer

Sarah Waters ............. *The Little Stranger

And if you're interested to learn a little more about these books, go to The Man Booker longlist . And just as a little aside, there is also The Man Booker International Prize, awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. The judges use their own discretion in choosing the author. This year the winner is Alice Munro! You can read more about that here.

What was the best book you've read this year?! Have you read any of these books? Any predictions on the winner? Leave a comment and let me know about any of the books here! And if you think they left out any book you think should be here!

*P.S. The books with asterisk's are Kindle Ready!

Happy reading....


Anonymous said...

I was pleased to see Byatt nominated, admire her previous work, currently reading The Childrens Book her currently nominated work. I also have Wolf Hall awaiting my attention and have heard great things about Mantell's latest work.
The Booker always provokes much debate and sometimes genuine controversy. I love the fact that in Britian people actually bet on the outcome, and even though at times the short listed books are intellectual, literary works, they are broardly read and discussed.
In the past I have felt one or other of the short listed books is actually better than the actual winner, but that is part of the fun of following the Booker. I will probably end up reading several of the books on the list, so will follow the debate and outcome with interest.
In the past I discovered new authors with wonderful novels via the Booker short and long list, Nicola Barker and David Mitchell are two, both featured on the short list in previous years but missing out on the prize although they were my personal favourites.

Ernie Joselovitz said...

Some of these are familiar neames for the Booker. I've read Trevor, who is better known for his short stories and novellas, but is very dark, stark and rivetting. Byatt, of course, wrote "Possessed", which was wonderful, but does tend to be intellectual in her interests and approach, so that her people have very attractive... brains. Toibin wrote the brilliant book about Henry James, "The Master", but this is supposed to be a minor effort of his, and his nomination is probably more a tribute to his body of work than this - supposedly excellent but small - book. Coetzee is another, who writes from South Africa, whose work I myself don't particularly find very moving, but is undeniably insightful and skilled. I would not be at all surprised if none of these won it this year.

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Book Pusher! Thanks so much for the insight into the Man Booker Prize! I look forward to reading your review of The Children's Book by Byatt! And I always take note of the authors I've never heard of before too! It's so interesting to hear of the enthusiasm that the UK has for this award! I wish it were more popular here, but maybe because authors from the US aren't eligible it's not as promoted as say the Pulitzer... Us bookish girls though have our eyes on it all though, don't we! I think I will have to read the Guardian UK to keep up on the controversies! Thanks for stopping by!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Ernie!
Thank you for the wonderful post on the authors in question and what we can expect from their writing! As usual a very poignant and interesting informative piece of writing that everyone will appreciate! Especially me!


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I think the judges' blog would be cool to read. Cooler than the books -- they skew more literary than my commercial tastes allow.

As for your comment about the US not being into it, I think, again, there's that literary quality to the award. Don't underestimate the interest, though: I'll be seeing a lot of writers and industry professionals talking about it. It's one of the biggie awards. And yeah, I wouldn't mind winning it, myself!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Susan!
Thanks for your input! I'm glad that there is more interest in The Man Booker Prize in the US than I originally thought! I know I always pay attention to what's going on! And the judges blog was very interesting! Especially the Chair's blog who held no punches about the publishers with their 'call ins'...

Take care,

Anonymous said...

Hi Suzanne, thanks for the comment at my blog, know exactly what you mean about TBR piles and The Children's Book is a bit of a brick but worth the effort I think. About release dates and international interest, I think Australia is lucky we get books generally at the same time as they are released in the country of origin. We also get the benefit of coverage, (although sometimes limited) of awards everywhere, so the pulitzer prize is also followed here as well as the Booker. The thing that sometimes limits or directs coverage is Australia's inherent parochialism, literary awards tend to get more attention and discussion when an Australian author or an author with an Australian connection is nominated, then our press seems to treat the events like an international sporting event and it becomes about winning rather than the quality of the works.
Just on Ernie's comment about Coetzee I tend to see him as a truly international author, he may have spent much of his early life in South Africa but he has also spent much of his working carreer in both the USA and the UK and is now living in semi retirement here in Australia, he also deals with quite philosphical concerns and ethical issues which makes him an interesting author but I agree not always a particularly entertaining read. I think Ernie may be right, the winner will probably not be one of the big names. It is cool that a literary award has us thinking and talking about books

Ernie Joselovitz said...

The Booker Man Award has always brought to my attention some very fine writers who come from the British landscape of writers - wonderful books by Ian McEwen, Roddie Doyle, the late great Penelope Fitzgerald, Julian Barnes, one of the few fine comic writers David Lodge, Colm Toibin, and I'm sure this year's nominations will bring to my attention yet another entertaining, challenging, and multi-dimensional writer of high quality. P.S. I'm going to read Hilary Mantell, heretofore unknown to me but with a long history of critically acclaimed books - and maybe this year's winner.

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