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All stories relating to Booker Prize

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Moore, Lansens have eyes on Orange prize

Two Canadian authors have made the longlist for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (the award formerly known as the Orange Prize). Among the 20 contenders are Lori Lansens’ The Girls (published by Knopf Canada here and Little, Brown in the U.K.) and Lisa Moore’s Alligator (House of Anansi Press here and Virago there). Not to mention Stef Penney’s Canada-set The Tenderness of Wolves (Penguin Canada here, Quercus there), which already has a Costa Book of the Year (the award formerly known as the Whitbread Prize) win under its belt.

The Canadian and Canada-friendly titles are up against Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, which has already won the Man Booker Prize (the award formerly known as the Booker Prize); Nell Freudenberger’s The Dissident; and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, among others. The winner will be announced on June 6.

As this Guardian piece notes, the presence of Desai and Penney on the longlist seems to buck an unspoken but longstanding trend on the BritLit awards scene:

But the decision goes far beyond this. None of the richer awards since the first of them, the Booker, was founded in 1968 has gone to a book which has previously won a sizeable rival award. Few if any have even gone to titles shortlisted or longlisted for a rival.

“No prize committee wants to come second,” one of the most seasoned ex-judges said yesterday.

So an as-yet-unawarded Canadian author could be just the ticket.

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Orange Prize: there’s good news and bad news

The Orange Broadband Prize for FictionAn article for the Independent discusses the recently announced longlist for Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, a prize for women writers, and the overall disappointment that this year’s chair, Muriel Gray, feels about the books that were submitted this year.

Gray says the works “lacked imagination, and focused too narrowly on their own lives and personal issues,” calling the tendency “rural schoolteacher syndrome.” These are strange comments when looking at the longlist, which includes the Booker Prize-winning The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai and Costa winner Stef Penney’s The Tenderness of Wolves. However, Gray does not want her comments taken out of context.

It might seem odd for a chair of a prize celebrating women’s fiction, but she was careful to position her remarks in the context of the “more level playing field” for women’s writing that has been created in part by the Orange Prize. The prize was necessary, not because women writers were “different or inferior, but because the publishing world, the media and the marketplace treated them as if they were”, said Gray. Must try harder, girls.

The article counters Gray’s argument with a brief survey of women writers who refute her point, and of male authors who also are guilty of writing about their own lives, and looks at how this year’s nominees measure up to Gray’s accusations.

For the complete list of the Orange Prize nominees click here.

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Misery loves company

Cover of Behind Closed DoorsAs reported in an article from the Independent, “misery literature” is gaining in popularity, especially in the form of memoirs. Last year, the bestselling memoir in the UK, Behind Closed Doors by Jenny Tomlin, which discusses her childhood experiences of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and neglect, out-sold the Booker Prize-winning The Inheritance of Loss by more than six times.

Most of the misery titles are sold in paperback form, and are purchased from supermarket shelves. But now bookstores are tapping into the market as well: one of the UK’s largest retail booksellers, Waterstones, has formed a “painful lives” section.

While Quillblog understands that many people write such books to “help”, ostensibly, others in similar situations, the header of “painful lives” gives a creepy, voyeuristic feel to the section that seems to take too much enjoyment in the real struggle the books recount.

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Booker shortlist announced

Well, Mary Lawson’s The Other Side of the Bridge didn’t manage to make the jump from the Man Booker Prize longlist to the just-announced shortlist. But there is good news for a couple of Canadian publishers: three of the six shortlisted titles have been issued in separate Canadian editions, two of them – M.J. Hyland’s Carry Me Down and Kate Grenville’s The Secret River – by HarperCollins Canada. The third Canadian-published title is Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss (Penguin Canada).

The other three Booker nominees are Hisham Matar’s In the Country of Men (Viking), Edward St Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk (Picador), and – singled out in the early press reaction as the frontrunner – Sarah Waters’ The Night Watch (Virago).

In its coverage of the shortlist announcement, The Guardian reminds us that over in Britain, it’s all about the betting action. “Meanwhile, the relatively low profile of many of the shortlisted authors was good news for bookmakers. ‘We couldn’t have compiled a better short-list from a bookmaking point of view,’ said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe. ‘Many of the well fancied runners like David Mitchell, Peter Carey, Barry Unsworth and Howard Jacobson have all fallen by the wayside and most punters have already lost their money.’”

Related links:
Click here for the official announcement
Click here for the Guardian story

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Lawson in the running for Booker

Mary Lawson is representing for Canada on the Man Booker Prize longlist, which was announced today. Lawson’s soon-to-be-released second novel, The Other Side of the Bridge, is one of 19 longlisted titles and the sole Canuck-authored entry. (The Canadian-raised Lawson now lives in the U.K.; Knopf Canada is her Canadian publisher.)

Here’s hoping Lawson makes the next round; the shortlist will be announced on September 14 and the winner on October 10. If Lawson goes all the way, she stands to win £50,000. But she’s already got some tough competition — also on the longlist are such past winners or nominees as Peter Carey (for Theft: A Love Story), Sarah Waters (The Night Watch), David Mitchell (Black Swan Green), and Nadine Gordimer (Get a Life).

Related links:
Click here for the full Booker longlist

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Lucky Kingsley

The CBC website has a feature on Lynn Coady’s new novel, Mean Boy, a satire of academic mores set at a fictional New Brunswick university in the 1970s. Journalist Andre Mayer places Coady’s novel in the tradition of the academic satire, a fertile subgenre of English-language fiction that includes Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin, Mary McCarthy’s The Groves of Academe, and perhaps the most famous of the bunch, Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim. Mayer asked Coady about Lucky Jim, prompting this condescending assessment of the never-gone-out-of-print novel and it’s author’s careeer: “Say what you want about Kingsley Amis as a person and a novelist, I like that he had the confidence to write a book that was just poking fun at academia.” In Other Media is sure that Amis, author of more than 20 novels, three poetry collections, several essay collections, and winner of dozens of literary awards and citations, including the Booker Prize in 1986, will sleep a little sounder in his grave after receiving such a ringing endorsement from a third-time Canadian novelist.

Related links:
Read Andre Mayer’s article on the CBC website

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Just the facts

Novelist Kenneth J. Harvey does his own take on the James Frey controversy in a satirical piece on the website for The Times. Working from the premise that if Frey can justify the non-fiction label attached to his largely fictional memoir by claiming that the majority of what he wrote was true, Harvey questions whether the latest Man Booker Prize winner, John Banville’s novel The Sea, can actually be called fiction. After all, the novel takes place in Ireland, a real country. Harvey also discovers that there are at least four people in Ireland named Max Morden, the name of the novel’s protagonist. This leads Harvey to conclude that “a comprehensive investigation is in order. If the sanctioned percentage of fact (to be determined by James Frey) exceeds the appropriate percentage of fiction, I suggest that it would be prudent for the Booker committee to strip Banville of his award.”

Related links:
Read Kenneth J. Harvey’s piece in The Times

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Booker Prize-winning novels rejected

An informal investigation conducted by British newspaper The Sunday Times has an amusing and surprising result. Disguising them as manuscripts for new books, the paper sent typewritten copies of the first chapters of two novels that won Booker Prizes in the 1970s — V.S. Naipaul’s In a Free State and Holiday, by Stanley Middleton — to publishers and agents throughout Britain. Neither submission appears to have been recognized by its recipients, and, according to Jonathan Calvert and Will Iredale of the Times, all but one of the 21 replies from publishers and agencies were rejections.

Calvert and Iredale suggest that the study may lend credence to criticisms of the acquisition practices of publishing houses that reflect an “obsess[ion] with celebrity authors and ‘bright marketable young things’ at the expense of serious writers.” The rejected novelists, as one may expect, showed the unsurprised disgust of two men lamenting a bygone era. Says Middleton, “People don’t seem to know what a good novel is nowadays.” Adds Naipaul, “With all the other forms of entertainment today there are very few people around who would understand what a good paragraph is.”

Related links:
Click here for the full story from the Times Online

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Banville beats Booker odds

Last night, in a ceremony in London’s Guildhall, Irish novelist John Banville beat seven-to-one odds and brought home his first Man Booker Prize for a melancholy study on old age, love, and grief, The Sea. The Guardian called the novel “one of the least commercial on the six-strong shortlist” that also included such literary superstars as Zadie Smith and the bookie-favoured Julian Barnes.

Critics are mixed in their assessment of the book. The Daily Telegraph‘s Lewis Jones calls Banville “the heir to Nabokov … with his fastidious wit and exquisite style,” while The Independent‘s literary editor, Boyd Tonkin, calls The Sea “an icy and over-controlled exercise in coterie aestheticism” and its victory “possibly the worst, certainly the most perverse, and perhaps the most indefensible choice in the 36-year history of the contest.”

Related links:
Click here for an article by Boyd Tonkin of The Independent
Click here for a review of The Sea featured in the Daily Telegraph in June

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Booker shortlist announced

In a year that saw landmark books written by the big names of British fiction — Rushdie, Barnes, Coetzee, McEwan, and Ali and Zadie Smith to name a few — the big question preceding this year’s Man Booker shortlist announcement was as much “who will be left out?” as “who will be kept in?”

Among the ranks of longlisted books that didn’t make it are Nobel Prize-winner and two-time Booker-winner J.M. Coetzee’s Slow Man and books by two other past Booker Prize recipients, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan.

There are few surprises among the shortlisted books. Each of them was written by an established novelist, with the possible exception of Sebastian Barry, better known as a playwright than as a long form fiction writer.

This year’s Booker shortlist includes John Banville’s The Sea (Picador); Julian Barnes’ Arthur & George (Jonathan Cape); Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way (Faber & Faber); Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (Faber & Faber); Ali Smith’s The Accidental (Hamish Hamilton); and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty (Hamish Hamilton). The bookmakers at William Hill favour the thrice-shortlisted Julian Barnes with 5/4 odds.

The winner will receive £50,000 with a guaranteed increase in sales and recognition worldwide. Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, will receive £2,500 and a designer bound edition of their own book. The winner will be announced on October 10 in a televised ceremony.

Related links:
Click here for the official Man Booker website
Click here for commentary by Louise Jury of The Independent
Click here for commentary by John Ezard of The Guardian

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