Today judges announced the Man Booker Dozen that have made it onto the long list for 2013. Last year Hilary Mantel won it for the second time and with a sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, which is the 2nd book in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy.
I have just finished reading Diana Athill’s excellent book Stet, An Editor’s Life arguably the person with the longest active memory of the history of books and publishing today, she won the Costa Prize for her most recent memoir Somewhere Near the End in 2009, when she was 93 years old. Stet, she wrote at the sprightly age of 80 shortly after retiring.
In the book she mentions the launch of the Booker Prize, mentioning that in the sixties, it was becoming more and more costly and less profitable to publish books and to compete against the bigger publishing houses. It was becoming difficult to sustain a publishing house that appealed to the more literary reader. She describes the two kinds of reader that existed, still relevant today:
People who buy books, not counting useful how-to-do-it books are of two kinds. There are those who buy because they love books and what they can get from them, and those to whom books are one form of entertainment among several. The first group, which is by far the smaller, will go on reading, if not for ever, then for as long as one can forsee. The second group has to be courted. It is the second which makes the best-seller, impelled thereto by the buzz that a particular book is really something special; and it also makes publishers’ headaches, because it has become more and more resistant to courting.
The Booker Prize was instigated in 1969 with the second group in mind: make the quality of a book news by awarding it an impressive amount of money, and hoi polloi will prick up their ears.
It worked for the books named, but the underlying aim to convert more people to reading did not. Not much has changed. The latest attempt to convert the population into reader, we could say is World Book Night, where publishers print thousands of books for free and they are given out on one night in the year, to people who don’t really read. Has that worked? Unlikely I think.
But onto the prize for 2013, this year’s long listed titles and authors are:
Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries
Jim Crace, Harvest
Eve Harris, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland
ColmTóibín, The Testament of Mary
Colum McCann, TransAtlantic – my review here
Donal Ryan, The Spinning Heart – my review here
NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names – my review here
Tash Aw, Five Star Billionaire
Richard House, The Kills
Alison MacLeod, Unexploded
Charlotte Mendelson, Almost English
Eve Harris, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being
Congratulations to all those authors and good luck to anyone hoping to read the list, I’ve only read one and I do have The Spinning Heart, so I guess that will next.
The shortlist will be announced on 11 September and the winner on 16 October.
Time to get reading!
Interesting news, Claire. I don’t know most of the authors except a few. Nice to see Colum McCann’s book there. Surprised to see Jhumpa Lahiri’s book there. Are American authors also eligible for the Booker prize now?
Diana Athill looks like an awesome person. Thanks for writing about her. I want to read her books now.
I haven’t written up my review yet, but since she spoke about the prize from its inception in 1969, I thought it was good timing to share that quote. I’m looking forward to reading her most recent work as well. I wonder what she thinks of this list?
In an interview with her in Mslexia magazine, she actually said that she no longer reads fiction, she reads non-fiction as fiction no longer surprises her. I guess she spent so many years editing other peoples work that she is over familiar with the process.
Interesting to know more about Diana Athill, Claire. It is sad that she no longer reads fiction. It is sad that when we work closely with novels, they might lose their magic at some point of time. I can’t imagine not reading fiction myself. I am looking forward to reading your review of Athill’s book.
I believe Jhumpa Lahiri was actually born in London, so she’s eligible. She’s going to be in London late September, would love to coincide a visit to listen to her read.
Yes, the only prediction I made was Colum McCann and although I have not yet read it, I was hoping to see Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche on there.
Have you read any? Who would you like to read?
Interesting to know that, Claire. I didn’t know that about Jhumpa Lahiri. Hope you get to be in London in September and listen to her read.
You got your prediction spot on 🙂 Wish Adiche had been there in the list too. I haven’t read any of the longlisted books yet. After reading your review, I want to read McCann’s book. ‘We Need New Names’ and ‘The Spinning Heart’ are fascinating titles. Glad to know that you will be reading ‘The Spinning Heart’ soon. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. Happy reading!
Interesting that you asked this question back in July Vishy, it’s now become a hot debate on The Guardian!
I highly recommend A Tale for the Time Being. It is wonderful and unusual and thoughtful. I am still mulling it over in my mind weeks later.
I seem to have only read good reviews for this one, I’ve read one of her books before, I think I’m going to have to read this one too.
Thanks Claire! I wouldn’t know where to get started since I have heard of only one book on the list, The Lowland and I haven’t got a clue what it’s about. Will be checking them all out since I do like keeping up with the Man Booker.
I think The Lowland is out in the UK in September, can’t wait to read Jhumpa Lahiri for sure, I recently read TransAtlantic and thought it was brilliant and I hear good things about The Spinning Wheel by another Irish author Donal Ryan, though I’ve not read his work before. I wasn’t tempted by Colm Toibin’s book, though I think it’s quite short and he is a well-known writer.
It seems again this year that there are quite a few on the list from smaller publishers, a sign of the times perhaps as being a more literary list, they tend not to be bestsellers, unless the name is very well established. Always refreshing to see a bunch of new name authors.
I have read Eleanor Catton’s debut The Rehearsal, an experimental novel, not sure what this one is about, but great to see a young New Zealand author on the list, that should give them a good reason to celebrate after the recent earthquakes.
Love the sound of NoViolet Bulawayo, might have to check her out!
Looks like I’m going to have to give this list a closer look, but thanks for pointing me in a few directions. 🙂 It’s good that smaller publishing companies will be more in the forefront. The publishing business is a little tricky at the moment.
Yes and I think these lesser known books probably all could do with a good bit of extra publicity. Have you started Americanah yet? I was going to read it next, I might read the one Booker list book I have first and then get into Chimamanda’s book, I was disappointed not to see her name on the list.
Will be reading it soon. I have a book to read for review on the 31 July. It’s a sic-fi so who knows what it’s going to be like. I should be starting Americanah then. I would like to get the review up before I leave on holiday.
Hmmm. Interesting post and Diana Athill sounds like an amazing lady. I have heard of the list before, but never knew what it was all about. Thanks for the heads up! I’m off to read your review.
She is an amazing lady, I’ll be posting a review of her book soon and definitely will be reading more of her work.
Good post, Claire. Interesting to see Lahiri’s book here when it will not yet have been released when the shortlist is announced. I always assumed they were selected from books already published that year. Still learning, I guess. : ) And I have lots of books to read…
Yes, I was just wondering if you had a copy and had read it after listening to her speak, I know the UK event isn’t until the end of Sept, I think the publication date is 24 Sept, so her book will be published before the winner is announced, but not before the shortlist is presented.
Well, clearly it was submitted by her publisher and must be eligible. Yes, I can’t imagine there are too many people who will have read the majority of these, that first kind of book person that Diana Athill describes is becoming a rare breed!
Excellent post, Claire. I’m happy to see Jhumpa Lahiri on the list with a new book. I loved “The Namesake”.
Yes, I am pleased to see her listed as well, it’s a pity the book won’t be available until late September, it’s likely to be a bestseller as soon as it becomes available!
I did World Book Night in 2012 – missed it this year, but hope to try again in 2014, if I don’t get too bogged down. So many, many good books out there to read – but I enjoy the light, trashy books too, not just the Lit’rary Ficton tomes.
World Book Night is great for getting a cross section of books out there, I just watch in admiration from afar, being unable to participate here in France.
Light and escapist are my summer favourites, when it’s hot, it’s far too difficult to concentrate on much else, if turning pages is even possible. 🙂 But I like to watch this prize for what it is, as Diana Athill explains, in the hope that they might get a bit of the bestseller cake.
Thanks for visiting Beverley:)
I’m happy to see NoViolet Bulawayo’s name here 🙂
And it sounds like a great book, that’s one I’d definitely like to read.
Claire, what would I do without your blog?! Wonderful post. Great quote. I would add to the first group of readers that we’re hopefuls. We want to read everything we can get our hands on of quality! I just told the owner of Denver’s West Side Books to hold the new Jumpah book for me. And, if any of you out there are from either group, please support your local bookstores! 🙂 (had to plug!)
I agree with you about Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche – I would have loved to see her on the list as well.
Athill’s quote is so true, yet I’ve never thought of it like that. Will have to get writing and capture that second group of people 🙂
Leave it to me to discover that Donal Ryan’s book — a debut one at that — was rejected 47 times before it found a publisher. That alone is a reason for me to read it ;-). Seriously, I’m always intrigued by this list. I have Ruth Ozeki’s novel, and I already ordered ‘Translantic.’ With what I know now about ‘The Spinning Heart,’ it’s a tough title to resist.
It’s not an uplifting novel and I can imagine it wasn’t an easy sell, but probably the kind of novel Diana Athill and her team would have taken on, when the voice was more important than the likelihood of commercial success.
This book could well be a success, because its the kind of book that many who never read might just do so, it brilliantly captures the despondency of a small town and how infectious it is, it’s like a modern day Irish famine (recession) giving the victims of it a voice – and it ain’t pretty.
Wow, rejected 47 times, the man has mountains of perseverance, good on him for not giving up on finding the books true home!
I’m going to read Americanah next, even though it didn’t make the list, but then NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names , as I think there could be some interesting connections between the two. Ruth Ozeki’s book sounds like a good one too, I enjoyed her debut..
Reblogged this on Patricia Sands' Blog and commented:
I can always rely on my friend and wordsmith extraordinaire, Claire McAlpine, to share the most important literary news on her fine blog. The Man Booker Prize Longlist is out! How many of these titles have you read?
I was going to post about the list and then remembered you would have the best post about it, so I’ve reblogged. Thanks for always being right on top of all the latest literary highlights!
Thanks Patricia, it’s a very diverse list, not many will have read more than a few before now, not least because 5 of them are yet to be published!
I’ve now read two and will read NoViolet Bulawayo’s book after I finish Americanah which I’ve been dying to read for ages and sadly didn’t make the list.
I’m looking forward to reading Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland, there’s always an interesting tale to be told with her
I agree, she never disappoints, even her short stories are great. I enjoy fiction that crosses cultures as hers often does.
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Oh the hoi polloi! What’s a writer to do? 🙂 I look askance at literary awards, but I DO look. A few authors on this list are unfamiliar to me – and that’s the gift of these lists, I think – the opportunity to discover, connect, grow.
I’ve read only two of those short-listed (ColmTóibín, The Testament of Mary; Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being). I loved both, but look forward to exploring a few more of these titles.
Thank you, Claire!
I like the diversity of the long-list this year.
I have just read The Spinning Heart – simple concept, big impact.
I also hope to read A Tale for the Time Being and Transatlantic.
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