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2014 Man Booker longlist unveiled

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.

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Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.


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