Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 Man Booker Prize Longlist

Yesterday afternoon, the 2009 Man Booker Prize longlist was announced. For those of you who are not yet familiar with the prize, here goes: the Booker is awarded to the best fiction novel of the year and is geographically limited to citizens of the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland. It needs to be a work originally in English and cannot be self-published. Just no US authors! The Booker prize is first announced in longlist: this is the thirteen-or-so books that the judges narrowed their massive contestant pool down to. On September 8, these thirteen books will be further narrowed down to just six, and on October 6 the winner will be announced. Once a book gets to the shortlist, many publishers will tweak their book's dustjackets to advertise their potential to win. Sure, it all seems very commercial, but its a gas to watch these developments from the US. Chances are, 3/4 the longlist will be books you've never heard of! In my opinion there's no better way to keep informed of overseas authors as a US reader than to track the Booker list.

And now, for you collectors, the Booker is an amazing opportunity to make some quick investments and have a two-month literary gambling session. Your first step is to read some summaries and reviews and start to track down UK 1sts of the titles that interest you. Next, plan your eBay auctions as book interest picks up Last year, I was able to find a signed US 1st of Adiga's The White Tiger at McNally Jackson on Prince Street in Manhattan for around $22. I also found a copy of the rare hardback of Linda Grant's The Clothes on the Their Backs on or something closer to $50 (plus shipping). Grant's book was favored to win. As I wasn't a big fan of her book, I sold it on eBay for around $200 right before the winners were announced. The award ultimately went to The White Tiger, boosting the value of my signed first about ten times its list. I then sold that online--made a bit of money and evened out the cost of the rest of the '08 longlsit. I got to read some great books, including one of my favorites of 2008, Philip Hensher's The Northern Clemency.

So, you can do this to! The longlist is below:

A.S. Byatt: The Children's Book
J.M Coetzee: Summertime
Adam Foulds: The Quickening Maze
Sarah Hall: How to Paint a Dead Man
Samantha Harvey: The Wilderness
James Lever: Me Cheeta
Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall
Simon Mawer: The Glass Room
Ed O'Loughlin: Not Untrue & Not Unkind
James Scudamore: Heliopolis
Colm Toibin: Brooklyn
William Trevor: Love and Summer
Sarah Waters: The Little Stranger

So far I've already read the Waters and the Toibin. Both were really lovely--The Little Stranger was a bit baggy in the middle but she did a splendid job presenting the fading era of the English Manor lifestyle. Brooklyn is just a great read in itself. It's a very delicate novel and perhaps not ambitious enough make it into the shortlist, but it certainly gets my recommendation.

I've got a great feeling about Wolf Hall and the Glass Room, and feeling a little uncertain about The Wilderness and Me Cheeta. A chimp "autobiography"? Really? Sounds more like something from Ricky Gervais's Monkey News than a Booker contender. We'll see how that goes!

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