Unbelievable. While I slept, from behind my back emerged this wee bitch of a Shortlist:
Hello, political component to the Man Bookers. Ha, what am I saying. Welcome back. We hardly missed ye; never had the chance. You can’t miss what hasn’t had the courtesy to leave.
Analysis of the analysts:
Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (48)
Granta, Jonathan Cape, Random House, Telegraph, Guardian
Guardian Books podcast: Political fiction
Verdict: Holy fuck, with political bent, though probably least prejudicial on list.
John Burnside (60)
Scottish poet, T.S. Eliot Prize, latecomer to the literary game, hell of a learning curve but he smashed this one.
Prof, St. Andrew’s University, novelist, list long as my arm.
From his university page:
“John’s main interests are in American literature, poetry, ecocriticism and the language of environmental activism.”
Verdict: Respect, with an American bent.
This is your Anne Tyler.
Michael Wood (67)
Born Manchester, working man’s town.
Frances Osborne (46)
One novel, two biographies. A Sackville by birth. Silver spoon. Lives next to freaking P.M.
Verdict: No respect.
Sam Leith (41)
Journalist, author of several works of nonfiction.
Young; resume growing nicely. Not there there.
Verdict: Judge in training.
Wild card man.
Two women, three judges under 50, two extreme heavy-hitters, a broadcaster, a political toss-in for my personal irritation and an in-training youngling. Typical cast of characters, though generally there’s a John Sutherland who really really pisses me off, ivory tower up the arse, anti-public opinion blow-hard.
Had a run-in with him once. Doesn’t show. Maintain neutrality.
No Marilynne Robinson, no Anne Enright, who’s won already so there’s that; never expected her to repeat. She’s obviously no Hilary Mantel, right? No repeat offender?
Sitting on the survivor’s list is Anne Tyler, audible gritting teeth. Quit making me say this: not a terrible author, no talentless hack but no Man Booker caliber writer either. Adding injury to Obamacare, bumping two far superior female writers, so far superior should be ubiquitous. Words almost fail but not quite. Once I stop talking the idiots win.
And no I’m not. Angry, yes. Out to piss off, yes.
Robinson and Enright bumped for Tyler. Many times as I say it sounds no less farcical.
If she walks off with the prize with that goes the last shred of relevancy for the Man Bookers. And I do mean s-h-r-e-d, gossamer thin, not fine. The award’s gone so far Left it’s rendered itself almost moot. SEE: Nobel Prize, category of any. Stick a fork in it and twist. HARD.
Aha! Wait! She’s one of the two Americans. Tyler and Yanigahara. Phew! I thought they were serious!
Ignoring that wee epiphany, A Little Life is there, the fuck me this is fine A Little Life. A Brief History of Seven Killings, called it. The rest don’t even speak to me: bad year, bad read on the judges.
Top of this heap: A Little Life, A Brief History of Seven Killings. The former, because I’m reading it now and it’s slapping me upside the head, the latter for its subject matter and how nearly universally praised it’s been, normally not a great thing but this time there’s the clever plot, hipster Bob Marley thrown in for good measure.
No: Satin Island and sure as hell better be A Spool of Blue Thread.
Wild cards: The Fishermen, The Year of the Runaways.
At this point I would rule out a damn thing. This is a jury of rogues out to make a statement. But which statement. A Little Life is probably too mainstream well-written, left standing because something needs to hold that spot. Satin Island gives me a bad vibe – prize-wise only.
Narrow again: A Brief History of Seven Killings, The Fishermen and The Year of the Runaways. If I’m really lucky, A Little Life. If there’s a swing vote.
Which political statement are they looking to make?
Find it and there’s your winner.