Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why The Booker Prize Might Actually Go To The Year's Best Novel This Year

The Booker Prize longlist was announced yesterday and it was an encouraging sign that the Booker people want their prize to be taken seriously as an award for the year's best or, at the very least, the most interesting novel. Too often the Booker has gone to someone in a clique of white, posh, North London based writers who have written some dreadful old rubbish that has been reviewed favourably by their friends in the broadsheet press. The Booker for a long time became a kind of lifetime achievement award for someone who had said the right things, gone to the right parties and blurbed the right people. Or, if petty jealousies got the better of the clique, the prize was given to some random person from the Commonwealth that nobody had heard of. 
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But this year's prize is being judged by Robert Macfarlane who I respect as a writer and a man of integrity and whose range of interests is broad. Yes he's a privately educated third generation literary-type who lives in Cambridge (no surprise there) but Macfarlane is better read than most Booker judges and better travelled too. I expect he'll take his job very seriously and actually read all the books. (This doesn't always happen.) The longlist has excluded nearly all of the North London clique - much to their fury I expect - and has actively sought out writers from the Commonwealth and Ireland. Only Americans are excluded from the Booker Prize for reasons that are still obscure to me. 
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Anyway here's the list in full (below). I've read 4 of the books on there and I was happy to see that three of the authors are Irish. (Colum McCann better hope the judges don't find out that he has a US passport.)
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Five Star Billionaire Tash Aw (Fourth Estate)
Unexploded Alison MacLeod ( Hamish Hamilton) 
TransAtlantic Colum McCann (Bloomsbury) 
The Spinning Heart Donal Ryan (Doubleday Ireland)