July 25, 2019
Five things to know about the Booker longlist
by Michael Barron
The Booker Foundation released the long list for its annual prize. And if you look hard enough, you’ll soon be looking like this guy:
Here’s what you need to know.
THE FULL LIST:
Author (country/territory) Title (imprint)
Margaret Atwood (Canada) The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
Kevin Barry (Ireland) Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books)
Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria) My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books)
Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK) Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)
Bernardine Evaristo (UK) Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)
John Lanchester (UK) The Wall (Faber & Faber)
Deborah Levy (UK) The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton)
Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy) Lost Children Archive (4th Estate)
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)
Max Porter (UK) Lanny (Faber & Faber)
Salman Rushdie (UK/India) Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)
Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey) 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)
Jeanette Winterson (UK) Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape)
NO AMERICANS (KIND OF): After all-English language novels beyond the Commowealth were allowed nomination entry in 2014, Americans went on two win two Booker Prizes (Paul Beatty in 2016 and George Saunders in 2017). That also included a heap of Americans on both the long and short lists. Not this time, or rather not obviously. Because at least two New Yorkers made the cut (Salman Rushdie and Valeria Luiselli), and as Lit Hub points out, Lucy Ellman, the list’s only indie nominee (more on that below) was born in Evanston Illinois, but moved to the UK as a teenager, where she has remained.
BUT AN INDIE NOVELIST: Of the ten, Ellman (mentioned above) was published by Galley Begger, a UK independent press (It will also appear in the United States via Bibioasis in September). Considering just how ridiculously difficult it can be for a book from an independent press to make a list like the Booker, you know this has to be good. And if the ladder of accolades this book has received is any testament to that, then I know at least one book I’ll be reading in September.
AN EMBARGOED NOVEL: Speaking of testaments and September, Publishers Weekly notes that The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, has only been read by possibly at most Atwood, her editor, the CEO of Penguin Random House Canada, and the judges of the Booker Prize. Apparently, a loop hole in the conditions of submission allowed a book that won’t be published until September 10 to qualify. Or maybe, it’s just that good.
NIGERIANS SHOW MUSCLE: If there is any indication that Nigeria has become a powerhouse for literature in the last decade, it is that more of them are appearing on best-of lists. This year, two Nigerians made the cut: Oyinkan Braithwaite and Chigozie Obioma. Not to pick favorites, but were we to go on titles alone, Brathwaite’s would have all the roses thrown at it.
THE FIRST BOOKER NOMINEE FOR A PUN: Frankissstein? Jeanette…
Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.