So, the Booker longlist is out. It doesn't seem ten minutes since the last one. Lots of places you can find out who's on it, but I'll copy and paste a list too... stole this from dovegreyreader, who has quite a few Booker-related posts for you to peruse, including her predictions before the longlist was announced.
Byatt, AS The Children's Book
Coetzee, J M Summertime
Foulds, Adam The Quickening Maze
Hall, Sarah How to paint a dead man
Harvey, Samantha The Wilderness
Lever, James Me Cheeta
Mantel, Hilary Wolf Hall
Mawer, Simon The Glass Room
O'Loughlin, Ed Not Untrue & Not Unkind
Scudamore, James Heliopolis
Toibin, Colm Brooklyn
Trevor, William Love and Summer
Waters, Sarah The Little Stranger
Quelle surprise, I have read none of 'em. In fact, the only ones I've been at all tempted by are the AS Byatt (very tempted) and Sarah Waters (slightly tempted), both of whom must have known they'd be on the longlist from the moment they signed the publishing deal. At least it's a year free of new books from Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, both of whom are also guaranteed Booker spots, whatever they write.
Every year the list generates discussion about the Booker - do you follow it? Does it influence your reading? Is it a waste of time or a great part of contemporary literature? Well, I think a list is always fun, and there's no harm in it. It will line the pockets of a few rich authors, and bring some new ones to notice. Yes, it's a bit silly to stratify literature to the extent of calling one the best of the year, and this fascinating article (with interviews with 40 judges from 40 years of Booker prizes) is very revealing about the compromises and third-horse winners the prize entails.
For me, the fact that a book has won a Booker prize is more likely to put me off than not. I'm interested in an outsider's sort of way, but since I read so little contemporary fiction, especially not the sort of fare which attracts Booker nominations, I just know I'd fail with most of these. When I do read modern fiction, I like it to be quirky and surreal, or studying the minutiae of human life - Booker nominations tend to be gritty and all about 'real life', or edgy (not the same as quirky!), or about enormous events. I prefer the James Tait Memorial Prize (which I wrote about here) based on their back list of winners.
Huge generalisations? Should I give them more leeway? Well, I know I don't have time to read all the longlist, or even the shortlist, but perhaps one of my book groups will read the winner. And, at the moment, having read none of them, I predict that will be... The Glass Room by Simon Mawer. I don't know anything about it, but the popular authors never win, and I like that title, and his name is Simon. I wonder if that will reasoning enough to sway the Booker panel...
Thoughts, please! What do you think of the Booker in general? And the longlist in particular? I'd love to hear.