Tuesday, September 9, 2014

2014 Man Booker Prize Shortlist Announced

The Telegraph is a UK publication, and it cracked me up to see one of its articles this morning: "Man Booker Prize 2014: British authors ward off US contenders." This is the first year writers outside Britain, the Commonwealth, and the Republic of Ireland have been eligible to compete for the prestigious Booker Prize, and it was a controversial decision. The rules now state books must have been written in English originally and have been published in Britain. The longlist of 13, announced in July, was chosen from 154 novels nominated by their publishers.

Five Americans (Siri Hustvedt; Richard Power; Joshua Ferris; Joseph O'Neill, born in Ireland but now a resident of New York City; and Karen Joy Fowler) made the longlist. Two of them, Ferris and Fowler, made today's six-book shortlist. Here is the complete shortlist (the UK publisher is in parentheses):

Joshua Ferris: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking) is "a book dubbed 'The Catch-22 of dentistry' by Stephen King in which a dentist finds he is being impersonated online" (The Guardian). The book was published in the US in May 2014 by Little, Brown.

Richard Flanagan: The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus) involves one day at a Japanese slave labor camp in August 1943, where Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor, is imprisoned. Flanagan, an Australian, based his book on his father's experiences constructing the Thailand-Burma railway during WWII. Knopf published the book in the US in August 2014.

Karen Joy Fowler: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent's Tail) is an account of narrator Rosemary Cooke's unusual family. Originally published in the US in 2013 by Putnam, the book was named one of 2013's best by The New York Times Book Review, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, and Library Journal.

Howard Jacobson: J (Jonathan Cape) is set in the future, "a novel to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World" (the publisher). British writer Jacobson won the Booker in 2010 for The Finkler Question. J will be published in the US on October 14 by Hogarth/Crown.

Neel Mukherjee: The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus) is a history of the Ghosh family in Kolkata (Calcutta). Mukherjee is an Indian writer who resides in London. W. W. Norton will publish the novel here in the US on October 1st.

Ali Smith: How to Be Both (Hamish Hamilton) involves two tales of love and injustice that intertwine. Books by Smith, who was born in Scotland but lives in Cambridge, are experimental in nature and have appeared on the Booker shortlist several times before. Pantheon will release the US edition on December 2nd.

Shortlist authors clockwise from top left: Fowler, Flanagan,
Smith, Mukherjee, Jacobson, Ferris (pictures from The Guardian)

Here is the rest of the 2014 longlist:

Siri Hustvedt: The Blazing World (Sceptre) is about artist Harriet Burden's struggle to be acknowledged in a male-dominated world (published in the US in March 2014 by Simon & Schuster).

Paul Kingsnorth: The Wake (Unbound), set during three years following the Battle of Hastings in 1066, features a band of guerillas who fight the Normans.

David Mitchell: The Bone Clocks (Sceptre) weaves six narratives from 1984 to the 2030s about a secret war between "soul-decanters" and a small group of vigilantes who try to stop them (Random House published it in the US on September 2).

David Nicholls: Us (Hodder & Stoughton) describes mild-mannered scientist Douglas Petersen's attempts to repair relations with his wife, who wants a divorce, and their 17-year-old son on a European trip (to be published in the US on October 28 by Harper/HarperCollins).

Joseph O'Neill: The Dog (Fourth Estate) involves an unnamed narrator's sojourn in Dubai as the "family officer" of the wealthy Batros clan (Pantheon publishes it today in the US).

Richard Powers: Orfeo (Atlantic Books) is inspired by the myth of Orpheus and features an American composer, Peter Els, suspected of terrorism by the US Dept. of Homeland Security (published in the US in January 2014 by W. W. Norton).

Niall Williams: History of the Rain (Bloomsbury) "creates a beautifully imagined world in which books are the pillars of identity and storytelling can save your life" (the publisher; released in the US by Bloomsbury USA in May 2014).

The 2014 Booker Prize winner will be announced on Tuesday, October 14. We'll be discussing some of these books before then.

The 2014 Booker Prize longlist books

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