Man Booker 2014 longlist announced – and there are a few surprises

The 13 novels longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize have just been announced. As expected, the new rules mean there is a heavy presence by American authors. Surprisingly though these are not the big hitters we were expecting – Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch didn’t make it even though it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction earlier this year. Dave Eggers didn’t get listed either, though perhaps that’s not surprising since the critical response to Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? was, shall we say, lukewarm. The best known name among the Americans is Karen Jay Fowler with We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Based on my experience of reading her best selling title,  The Jane Austen Book Club I am surprised to find her on the list and honestly can’t see her getting any further. Delighted though to see Neel Mukherjee on the list with The Lives of Others – I reviewed this recently and enjoyed it so much I nominated it for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Award. Hope he gets through to the next  round..

Disappointingly few Commonwealth writers make it this year, in distinct contrast to the 2013 award longlist. Instead we have six novels from Britain, one from Australia, one from Ireland plus the five from USA.

Chairman of the judges AC Grayling says that the lack of Commonwealth writers on the list was a reflection of the choices made by publishers when they decided what to submit. The Daily Telegraph quotes him as follows:.

“It looks as though the publishers have put forward a number of American authors slightly at the expense of Commonwealth writers.

“But I do think this is something that will adjust itself very quickly. It’s almost certainly the publishers feeling their way with American authors and I’m quite sure that will right itself,” he said.

That comment doesn’t quite stack up for me since the press release issued by the Man Booker team says there were 31 Commonwealth submissions this year compared with 43 last year. Ok, it’s a drop but not a big falling off. The key here is however that 44 titles were entered which wouldn’t have been eligible until the rule change so we are certainly seeking a skewing of the list. I hope Grayling proves right and this should settle down in future years since one of the most valuable aspects for me of the Booker was the way it highlighted lesser known authors from countries whose literature doesn’t get much visibiity otherwise.

The Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist

Joshua Ferris (USA) To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

Richard Flanagan (Australia):  The narrow Road to the Deep North

Karen Joy Fowler (USA):  We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Siri Hustvedt (USA):  The Blazing World

Howard Jacobson (British): J

Paul Kingsnorth – The Wake. A novel published through crowd-funding

David Mitchell (Britain):  The Bone Clocks

Neel Mukherjee (British): The Lives of Others. Although born in Calcutta, the Booker lists him as British

David Nicholls (British):  Us

Joseph O’Neill (USA): The Dog

Richard Powers (USA) Orfeo

Ali Smith (British): How To Be Both

Niall Williams (Eire) – History of the Rain

I’m off to the library now to see which of these I can get. If last year’s experience is anything to judge by there won’t be that many available.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on July 23, 2014, in Asian authors and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Hi there, all is going perfectly here and ofcourse every one is sharing
    information, that’s actually fine, keep up writing.

  2. And no Canadians!! That doesn’t often happen. Let’s blame the Americans.

  3. and I had such a hard time with Ali Smith’s There But For The, even though I love original books, ok maybe because I listened to it. Not sure I’m ready to try the one here listed

    • I’ve read only Brick Lane so I am not accustomed to her style. I think she will be a strong contender so I plan to read this, though unlikely to do so before the award is announced

      • I listened to There But For The, I should probably have read it instead, maybe better. though I can see the new one has also this thing about dialogs, no dialog punctuation per se, instead always adding he said, she said, which totally drove me nuts when listening to her previous book

  4. I haven’t read Fowler but her book did get lots of buzz when it came out. It is an interesting list. Sad to see no one from Canada on it though.

  5. I’m looking forward to reading Us and The Lives of Others.

  6. Well it’s a bit safe list this time some old faithful a couple of middling American writers powers and Flanagan are the two that jump out at me

  7. The most interesting thing about this list is that I’ve barely even heard of most of these books much less read them. At least one (David Mitchell) hasn’t even been published yet. i fear, as expected, the Booker has completely lost its way, though it’s done it even more quickly and completely than I anticipated. The one bright thing is that The Goldfinch isn’t on the list – not just because I personally didn’t rate it highly, but because to have the same book win the Booker as the Pulitzer would make the Booker even less relevant than it seems intent on making itself.

    I’ll wait to see what’s shortlisted, but I doubt I’ll be rushing to read the shortlist this year…

    • You are not the first person I have heard saying they will not be following the Booker with as much interest this year. That change in the rules could have been a really bit mistake. Ali Smith hasn’t been published yet either – not due out in UK until Sept 4

  8. So much of my faith in the merit of literary prizes evaporated with the IFFP this year. Clearly, the Independent is anything but. Anyway, I agree with you about the difficulty in finding the books at the library, and I thought it was just mine with such trouble. Hope you find a personal favorite from the list.

    • I did even worse this year than last year in finding the books at the library. One of them is available from another branch, three of them are on order but they don’t have any plans to order the American authors. I’m sure budget cuts are at work here

  9. I commented on your previous post about this before seeing this one. I’m jumping back in, however, to support your point about the Commonwealth writers. I’ve been saying ever since the announcement that US authors would be eligible that it would be the Commonwealth writers who would miss out and for once I’m really annoyed to have been prove to be right. On a day that sees us all coming together to celebrate the spend our of belonging to the Commonwealth family it’s a downright disgrace.

    • Making the announcement on the day the Commonwealth Games opens just makes the omission even more obvious. I hope the Folio Prize restores the balance a bit – wasn’t it the case that the Folio created the prize purely as a reaction to the Booker new rules?

      • No, it was created after a year where the Booker judges said they wanted something that would go with a zing and authors went up in arms and devised a prize that claimed it would only award work of real literary merit. It’s open to anything that has been published in English in England. This year the eight strong short list had six American authors on it and two British. No hope there, I’m afraid!

  10. I’m with you, sad to see the Commonwealth drop off, but glad that the American’s didn’t comprise a full majority. That’s fascinating about Karen Joy Folwer, I only know her from the same novel, I’ll have to read this one to see if it’s different.

    • One of the librarians I chatted to today said she is half way through it and enjoying it. Since I doubt I’ll get to even half of these before the shortlist announcement, I probably will put this towards the bottom of the list Geoff

  11. This is the first I’ve heard that American authors are now included. It does seem like an unfortunate decision if it means the Commonwealth authors get crowded out. Americans already get enough attention! (Speaking as an American…)

    • I think a number of people commented at the time the new rules were announced that it really wasn’t a good move and would mean pushing out the smaller publishers and authors. Now they have been proved right

  12. Very exciting. I loved Richard Powers’ book The Echo Maker though I was disappointed by two of his other books. I also get swept away by David Mitchell, so I am very excited to see these two names on the list. What I like most though is seeing names of writers whose works I don’t know because the list promises there’s something out there new to read.

  13. Like you, I was surprised to see Karen Joy Fowler on this list. I’m happy to see Siri Hustvedt. I wish you luck at the library and hope you will enjoy reading the nominees.

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