|Wait a minute, is there a ringer in this bunch?|
"After re-reading an extraordinary longlist of 12, it was the pure power of prose that settled most debates" commented chair Sir Peter Stothard, Editor of the Times Literary Supplement, at the press conference. "We loved the shock of language shown in so many different ways and were exhilarated by the vigour and vividly defined values in the six books that we chose—and in the visible confidence of the novel's place in forming our words and ideas." (The other pundits are Dinah Birch, academic and literary critic; Amanda Foreman, historian, writer, and broadcaster; and Bharat Tandon, academic, writer, and reviewer.)
Here's what the Man Booker publicity said about the current crop of nominees:
Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies ... is not just a sequel but should it win she would join the select duo of J.M. Coetzee and Peter Carey as double Man Booker winners. The book though will have earned its place on the shortlist by virtue of its merits as a stand-alone title which can be read by someone who hasn't opened Wolf Hall. Meanwhile the fact that Swimming Home is Deborah Levy's first novel for 15 years will have had the judges asking why, when a writer is this accomplished, has the gap between books been so long? Tan Twan Eng's The Garden of Evening Mists, with its evocation of the Malayan Emergency, will have taken the judges out of the realms of the familiar and into a distant land and unfamiliar scenario. Alison Moore's debut The Lighthouse will have reminded them of the shock and pleasure that comes when a fully-fledged work of fiction arrives unexpectedly from a new author. The same is true of Jeet Thayil's first novel Narcopolis which is also proof that in the right hands places can be as rich a character as any of the people that appear in fiction. Will Self's Umbrella on the other hand is evidence that despite its shrinking profile experimental fiction is still being written and that the search for new solutions to the old problems of literary form are still being sought.
In 2008, "The Best of the Booker"—a celebratory award to mark its 40th anniversary—was given to Salman Rushdie for Midnight's Children. The other five shortlisted books, chosen from the list of 41 Prize winners over the years, were Pat Barker's The Ghost Road, Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda, JM Coetzee's Disgrace, JG Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur, and Nadine Gordimer's The Conservationist.
Are you contemplating adding any of these nominees to your must-read list?