I like a bit of controversy, and it seems the announcement of the longlist for this year’s Man Booker prize has set the literary world talking this week, for a variety of reasons. Big name authors have seemingly been overlooked in favour of those lesser known, though there are only three first novels included in the list. Joint chief exec of literary agency Curtis Brown, Jonny Geller, has been quoted as saying, “It is one of the few longlists in recent years where I wasn’t to read more than a handful. Full of life, vibrancy, and different worlds. The absence of some big names is not the point: the inclusion of new ones is what is exciting.” I agree – I think the list is made more interesting because of this, along with the fact that so many different nationalities have been represented, not to mention the inclusion of a multimedia e-book, featuring audio and video content (first published for free in four parts, via Twitter, now available in hardback).
There is also a pleasant change in the fact that the subject matter of these books seems to be mainly contemporary – after the domination last year of Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (which I still haven’t read), a departure from historical fiction seems almost new and different. Not that there aren’t one or two historical novels in the list, making a nice balance.
Another talking point is the fact that five of the novels on the list have yet to be published, meaning the judges of the Man Booker prize are part of what no doubt is a very small group of people so far to actually read them.
Two in particular here have caught my eye: TransAtlantic by Colum McCann, which appears to be written at first in a strange, disparate style, before weaving separate stories from different time periods together, sounds like exactly the kind of book I would like. And, because of my love of so many books set in China, The Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw is probably also one I would enjoy, though it is usually ancient rather than modern China that keeps me turning the pages.
The short list will be announced in September, so I will see then if either of these two makes it to the next round.