Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Man Booker 2014: Longlist predictions

Tomorrow is longlist day for the Man Booker Prize, and I AM VERY EXCITE! If that makes me tragic, then I don't want to be normal :-P

Once again, I am going to attempt to read and review the longlist before the shortlist announcement on 9 September. It is quite likely that I will not succeed, but it's important to have goals in life, and this is a perennial one of mine.

The Booker could be a very different beast this year, as, for the first time, American authors will be eligible (the rules have changed to include all novels written originally in English and published in the UK). This relaxing of the criteria from the previous "resident of or born in a Commonwealth country, Ireland or Zimbabwe" could cause lots of ructions, and is widely tipped to shift the balance heavily toward the better-promoted, better-known, usually-USian authors.

I haven't ever had a go at predicting a longlist before (I always stab at the shortlist), and the field is super wide - Goodreads has most helpfully compiled a list of the eligible titles and it's 154 books long. Naturally I have not read most of the 154, but I have been doing some very bookish-nerdy research and chatting on the subject on book forums, and I'm ready to thoroughly embarrass myself in public (well, here) by listing The 20 Titles Most Likely as I see it. The longlist is usually 12 and occasionally 13 books long, but these are the 20 books that I reckon it will be pulled from. The ones by Americans are starred.

*1. The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt): Which has already won the Pulitzer and is magnificent to boot.

2. The Good Children (Roopa Farooki): Which I am told is a well written family saga set in India, and Booker judges historically LOVE those.

3. The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell): Which is by David Mitchell, and therefore bound to be brilliant and odd. (I have already bought this one to read!)

*4. All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr): Which is a story about a blind girl set in WWII France, by an American, which is theme-ticked all over the place. Also, it's apparently really good.

*5. The Good Lord Bird (James McBride): Which actually sounds awesomely my cup of tea, being a historical faction involving anti-slavery campaigner John Brown and the raid at Harper's Ferry. (I've bought this one too).

6. The Temporary Gentleman (Sebastian Barry): Which has been highly praised critically and is by an Irish playwright, which screams PICKME PICKME in Booker judge lexicon.

7. Frog Music (Emma Donoghue): Which is a historical crime novel by the author of Room, so highly likely.

8. A God in Every Stone (Kamila Shamsie): Which is set in World War I, which is popular, and in the fading British Empire, and India (even more popular), and is also apparently very good indeed.

*9. Hyde (Daniel Levine): Which could be awful - a Jekyll and Hyde pastiche, hmmmmm - but this debut has been highly praised, and Booker judges love to have at least ONE debut in there.

10. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Claire North): Which sounds a great deal like a rip off of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life ... but as that was unaccountably left off the Booker list last year, I'll have this one instead, I think.

11. The Incarnations (Susan Barker): Which is meant to be a fiercely weird blend of fantasy, history and twists, and has been compared with David Mitchell's work, which probably means it'll be this one OR The Bone Clocks but not both.

*12. The Snow Queen (Michael Cunningham): Which is about transcendence, and also is set in New York, so there's that.

*13. 10:04: A Novel (Ben Lerner): Which I have heard is terrific, and is about the crises most relevant to our times. (Have bought this one too :-)

*14. The Ghost of the Mary Celeste (Valerie Martin): Which is apparently a crackingly good historical fiction, and judges like that, a la yon double-Booker-winner Hilary Mantel. (This one's on my TBR pile too...)

15. Eyrie (Tim Winton): Which I truly hope doesn't get on, but I think is probably the Australian Title Most Likely *grumble grumble*

*16. Dept of Speculation (Jenny Offill): Which is meant to be about life, meaning and love through the lens of a failed marriage - aka catnip to prize judges.

17. Mrs Hemingway (Naomi Wood): Which sounds kind of interesting as a bio-faction about Hemingway's four wives, and has been very well received.

18. All That is Solid Melts Into Air (Darragh McKeon): Which is set in and around the Chernobyl disaster, and is by an Irish writer.

19. Glow (Ned Beaumann): Which will get a guernsey because Beaumann has been the bridesmaid too often already.

*20. Carthage (Joyce Carol Oates): Which may or may not be any good (but probably is good, going by the reviews), and is by the author I have long felt to be the Most Booker-Likely American.

So let's see how hilariously offbase I am tomorrow!

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