The Booker longlist announcement sometimes passes us by. It’s not that long, at thirteen titles, and since 2014, some of them are American. Paul Beatty is the only American to have won, for his excellent The Sellout last year. Already, the knives are out for the pro-America crowd. It’s hard enough, with thirteen books, for British and Commonwealth authors to be heard, they say. It’s time to end the American experiment.
The reason we tend to ignore the longlist is that thirteen books is already rather a lot. Far too many for any but the keenest literati to blast through in time for the shortlist announcement a few weeks later. No, the smarter types tackle only the shortlist. Yet that is an achievement too, because you only get five weeks between the shortlist announcement on 13th September and the final prizegiving on 17th October. It’s not long to read the 6 that make it to the final round.
I normally read anything by Zadie Smith as soon as it is released, but through circumstance and other little kinks in the space-time continuum, we still don’t have Swing Time. We do have Paul Auster’s masterful 4-3-2-1 however, and we hope he gets a chance to win in case the American curtain closes once more.
I don’t pretend to understand the reasons the Americans were grudgingly and belatedly allowed in. I suspect it was because this prize is supposed to celebrate the very best literary novels written in English, so it is devaluing to exclude America. And whether many of the recent winners were even long enough to be considered novels is another matter entirely.
So here you are. Just in case you’re a complete reading nutter, you can have a crack at all thirteen, but you’d best be quick! The smart money is of course on Arundhati Roy. God knows why.
4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury Circus)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)