Monday, 1 August 2011

The Booker Longlist: A Travesty - A D Miller instead of Edward St Aubyn? Madness

Hadley: elegant
I know a lot has been said about this already, but this year's Booker Prize Longlist is mostly entirely mad. It is making my blood boil to the extent that you could probably power an entire city off me. The point about a prize for literary fiction, one would have thought, is that it had literary fiction on its longlist - and by that I mean serious, well-written and thoughtful fiction that doesn't think about whether it will sell in Japan. Crime and thrillers have their own prizes - surely the raison d'ĂȘtre of the Booker is to give space to serious fiction that might not otherwise gain any press at all? I can't talk about the books I haven't read, but I know that I have read at least two novels this year that beat A D Miller's appalling Snowdrops into a cocked hat. Snowdrops, with its clunky prose and guessable plot, embarrassing stereotypes and cringeworthy similes, doesn't deserve to be on this list at all. What about Tessa Hadley's elegant and beautiful The London Train? Or Tim Binding's overlooked The Champion? Or, more potently, Edward St Aubyn's sterling At Last?

A list that has something as inherently bad as Snowdrops on it is not a list that I can take seriously. Perhaps it's time for the Man Booker to rethink its position. Why have thriller writers like Stella Rimington as judges (whose own last novel was reviewed rather, well, feebly). For publicity points? Why have Chris Mullin, whose only literary effort to date has been some rather amiable diaries? No Pepys he. This isn't a proper list - it's like the weird woman in the supermarket taking tins off a shelf at random.

We'll have to wait and see what the shortlist looks like: if Miller's on it, I'm leaving the country if that's what passes for decent fiction these days.

THE LONG LIST Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape - Random House)
Sebastian Barry On Canaan's Side (Faber)
Carol Birch Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books)
Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers (Granta)
Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail)
Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld)
Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger's Child (Picador - Pan Macmillan)
Stephen Kelman Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)
Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books)
A.D. Miller Snowdrops (Atlantic)
Alison Pick Far to Go (Headline Review)
Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press)
D.J. Taylor Derby Day (Chatto & Windus - Random House)


  1. Yes, yes, yes! Totally agree, especially regarding Edward St Aubyn. Have a feeling Man Booker are trying to back away from 'elitist' literary quality and go more in the 'thumping good read' direction. But it isn't going to be the premier literary prize in the English-speaking world for long if so.

  2. It's so silly, isn't it - there are plenty of good prizes for thumping good reads. It makes me so angry - even more angry than the coverage given to the Booker on TV the year that Hilary Mantel won, in which a sneery presenter showed charts of how much The Da Vinci Code had sold set against how much Mantel had. Sales are all! The sales machine knows everything! It's like this man who's sold 1,000,000 copies on Kindle - it's touted as if it's some kind of marvel, when it's just people spending 99p as if they were buying a chocolate bar.