When the Man Booker Prize announced last September that, as of the 2014 prize, the field of nominees would be expanded beyond the borders of the Commonwealth to any novelist worldwide writing in English and published in Britain, it promised to ‘celebrate and embrace authors […] whether from Chicago, Sheffield or Shanghai.’ In practice, the unveiling of the 13 titles that comprise the 2014 longlist suggests that what that really meant was ‘we can nominate Americans now too’.
Six nominees are British, one is Australian and two are Irish, meaning nine of the thirteen authors cited would have been eligible in any other year of the prize’s history. The remaining four are all American. That could, of course, be taken as evidence of the rude health of the American literary scene. It could also be seen as the prize not moving too far outside of its comfort zone at the expense of work from around the Commonwealth.
Anyway, the nominees. The American contingent is made up of Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World and Richard Powers’ Orfeo. On the home front are Howard Jacobson’s J, Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake, David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others, David Nicholls’ Us and Ali Smith’s How to be Both. Completing the longlist are History of the Rain by the Irish Niall Williams and The Dog by his countryman Joseph O’Neill, and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by the Australian Richard Flanagan.
Some further statistics, presented without comment: only three of the thirteen authors listed are women, and two of their number total half of the American nominees. All but Mukherjee are white. Four of the six British nominees are English, with Mukherjee Anglo-Indian and Smith the sole Scot. Donna Tartt is conspicuous by her absence. The list contains one former winner of the Booker (Jacobson, for The Finkler Question in 2010) and two prior nominees (Mitchell, twice, in 2001 for number9dream and 2004 for Cloud Atlas, and Smith, also twice, also in 2001 for Hotel World and in 2005 for The Accidental).
The judging panel is chaired by A.C. Grayling and also features Sarah Churchwell, Daniel Glaser, Jonathan Bate, Alastair Niven and Erica Wagner. Their shortlist will be revealed on 9 September, with the winner announced on 14 October.
Tags: Ali Smith, David Mitchell, David Nicholls, Howard Jacobson, Joseph O'Neill, Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, longlist, Man Booker Prize, Neel Mukherjee, Niall Williams, Paul Kingsnorth, Richard Flanagan, Richard Powers, Siri Hustvedt
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