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2011 Man Booker Prize Longlist

I love this time of year!  The Man Booker Prize longlist is as follows (dates in parentheses indicate when the title is slated for publication in the United States if it is not already available):

  • The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes (January 24, 2012)
  • On Canaan’s Side, Sebastian Barry (September 8, 2011)
  • Jamrach’s Menagerie, Carol Birch
  • The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt
  • Half Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan (I don’t see a date for this one)
  • A Cupboard Full of Coats, Yvvette Edwards
  • The Stranger’s Child, Alan Holinghurst (October 11, 2011)
  • Pigeon English, Stephen Kelman
  • The Last Hundred Days, Patrick McGuinness (I don’t see a date for this one)
  • Snowdrops, A.D. Miller
  • Far to Go, Alison Pick
  • The Testament of Jessie Lamb, Jane Rogers (I don’t see a date for this one)
  • Derby Day, D.J. Taylor (I don’t see a date for this one)

So, six of the titles are already available in the U.S., a couple more due out before the winner is announced, and four that may never make it here, which is basically right in line with past years.  We’ll have to see if the longlist gets any of the other titles a U.S. publication.  Last year, my two favorites (Damon Galgut’s In a Strange Room (review here), and Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question (review here)) were not available in the U.S. when the longlist was announced but were soon offered as ebooks, which is how I read them, and eventually were published in paperback.

I haven’t read any of the books on this year’s longlist, though I do have copies of The Sisters Brothers and The Stranger’s Child, both of which I’ve been meaning to read, mostly in anticipation of this list.  I’ve heard a lot about On Canaan’s Side, Pigeon English and Snowdrops, but I’ll have to revisit to see if I want to read them.  I felt let down with Barry’s last Booker contender, The Secret Scripture (my review here) but I liked it enough that I may give this one a go.  KevinfromCanada reviewed Far to Go earlier this year (KFC review here), and I have it marked as one I’d like to get to.  I have a soft spot for Julian Barnes, and this short novel sounds excellent to me.

Some exclusions of past winners: Aravind Adiga’s Last Man in the Tower, Michael Ondaatje’s Cat’s Table, Graham Swift’s Wish You Were Here, Barry Unsworth’s The Quality of Mercy, and Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz.  There are also some past strong shortlisters whose exclusion may surprise some: Ali Smith’s There but for the, Edward St. Aubyn’s At Last, Hisham Matar’s Anatomy of a Disappearance, Linda Grant’s We Had It So Good, and Philip Hensher’s King of the Badgers.  I thought perhaps David Bezmozgis’s The Free World would find its way there (I’ve read this one but haven’t reviewed it yet — soon).

The general breakdown (which I got from the Man Booker Prize website’s official write-up (here)), is one former winner (Holinghurst), two previous shortlisters (Barnes and Barry), and one previous longlister (Birch).  There are four first time novelists (Kelman, Miller, Edwards, and McGuinness) and three Canadians writers on the list (deWitt, Edugyan, and Pick).

The shortlist will be announced September 6.  The winner on October 18.

Other than that, I’m anxious to see how this year stacks up.  I’m not particularly thrilled about any of the titles, but that hopefully will change.

8 thoughts on “2011 Man Booker Prize Longlist”

  1. Trevor says:

    So, reading the first line of Caroline Birch’es Jamrach’s Menagerie, and it immediately sends me to Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex:

    I was born twice

    Are there any other books that use that as an opening line?

  2. Kevin J MacLellan says:

    Digonos, Digonos– (Greek: twice-born)
    But the twice crucified,
    Where in history will you find him?
    —Ezra Pound, The Cantos

    Hi Trevor,
    Sounds like you’re in seventh heaven. Just to let you know, I’ll be following and using you as a guide through this prize period ’til the short list. The pressure is on!

  3. Trevor says:

    Thanks for the pressure, kjml — if things start to look dire, I’ll just remember you’re watching! To deflect a bit of the pressure, though, let me point to KevinfromCanada’s blog (I know you go there too) as I believe he’ll hit more of these than I will. Indeed, I see he has indicated at least an intention to read them all, with the caveat he may skip the dystopian ones.

    I do have 5 of the titles now. I will certainly be adding the Barnes and the Barry at some point, so hopefully I’ll hit around 7 of these. I’m pretty sure I won’t be hitting the Kelman (but here is KFC’s review and here is John Self’s review — they effectively pointed me in the other direction). The other 5 are the ones I’m least familiar with, and 4 of them are not readily available. If I’m to order them from the UK, I’ll have to start hearing some major buzz as right now I’m not particularly interested.

    I decided a couple of years ago to never again have the goal to read all of the longlisted titles (it was mightily depressing on my reading), but rather to give them each serious consideration and to give the shortlist even more consideration — the winner, even more (though I still haven’t read Wolf Hall — I will fix that some day).

  4. If I was forced to make an observation only a few hours after the longlist is released, I would say I am disappointed. I’ve only read four — Pick (thanks for the link — a number of people have already followed it) and Barnes I liked, Hollinghurst and Kelman I didn’t. In addition to dystopian novels, I’m not very keen on novels written by Westerners about communist or post-communist regimes (Miller and McGuinness). The publishers descriptions of a couple of others (deWitt and Edwards) are equally not appealing. And, as you note in your post, I think a lot of very good novels were left off the list in favor of some questionable choices. On the other hand, denouncing the list before I’ve read so many on it hardly seems fair.

    Also a word of advice for visitors here who might be looking to buy physical copies from the UK. Now that Amazon has extended its reach (they have bought both AbeBooks and the Book Depository), the Book Depository blocks NA customers from ordering copies (which has always been attractive, due to free shipping) when Amazon has e-book rights in the U.S. However, if you prefer actual books, if you go to AbeBooks.com and look for the BD as a supplier when you search a title, they are available with free shipping that way — I was able to order the eight I don’t have this morning for about $150 Cdn, which I don’t find excessive since I chose hard covers whenever the option was offered.

  5. Trevor says:

    Thanks for the advice on purchasing options, Kevin. I myself was wondering just what I’d do if I wanted to order some since it is much harder now than it was in the past.

    As for the list, I’m trying to sit back and wait, possibly because I’m a bit disappointed myself. I usually get excited by the unknown ones, but that’s not really the case this year. But, as you said, it hardly seems fair to form an opinion of them when I have only begun to hear about them, let alone when I haven’t even read them.

    Thanks again for making my decision to not read Pigeon English (at least, right now), very easy.

    Right now I’m just trying to figure out a plan of attack. Of the books I already have, do I read the ones I’m least interested in first (that would be the Miller and the Holinghurst), to get them out of the way (and, who knows?, perhaps get more excited if I like them more than I think I will)? Or do I settle into this year with a title I’m anxious to read (like the Pick or the Birch)? I’ll be commuting home in a few hours, so this decision will be made shortly.

  6. Stewart says:

    The Last Hundred Days, Patrick McGuinness
    The Testament of Jessie Lamb, Jane Rogers

    These two are published by very small presses in the UK: one Welsh, one up in the Scottish Highlands. I suppose it depends on the rights the publishers have, but the Booker may warrant a sniff for North American rights from US/Canadian publishers now. It probably depends on whether they make the next cut.

  7. Lee Monks says:

    ‘I’m not particularly thrilled about any of the titles, but that hopefully will change.’

    Trevor, I think I shall just concur with that sentiment and leave it at that! Although the DeWitt looks fun.

    Kevin: I think you’ve every justification in being disappointed. Just to pick one example, the very idea that Adma Mars-Jones fails to get onto the list, particularly when you consider that DJ Taylor and Carol Birch are on it (no offence meant to those two), is laughable, unquestionably so. But how could we have seriously expected any different from the worst panel ever assembled for the award?

  8. Trevor says:

    I think it is worth noting that so far there are no signs of any U.S. publication for the titles above that I’ve marked as “(I don’t see a date for this one).” Perhaps if one of them makes the shortlist, or perhaps it’s too early even if publishers aren’t waiting for the shortlist, or perhaps these deals are all going on and I’m just unaware. It could also be that publishers here have looked at them and thought, “We’ll pass,” as I have done. I’m anxious to see!

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