July 28, 2016
It’s Booker time!
by Nikki Griffiths
The Man Booker Prize 2016 longlist was announced yesterday at noon.
The Booker “dozen” of thirteen novels was chosen from 155 submissions, published in the UK between 1 October 2015 and 30 September 2016, and selected by a panel of five judges, made up of Amanda Foreman (Chair of the 2016 judges), Abdulrazak Gurnah, Jon Day, Olivia Williams, and David Harsent.
The 2016 Longlist
- The Sellout (Oneworld) by Paul Beatty (US)
- Schooldays of Jesus (Harvill Secker) by J.M. Coetzee (South Africa-Australia)
- Serious Sweet (Jonathan Cape) by A.L. Kennedy (UK)
- Hot Milk (Hamish Hamilton) by Deborah Levy (UK)
- His Bloody Project (Contraband) by Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK)
- The North Water (Scribner UK) by Ian McGuire (UK)
- Hystopia (Faber & Faber) by David Means (US)
- The Many (Salt) by Wyl Menmuir (UK)
- Eileen (Jonathan Cape) by Ottessa Moshfegh (US)
- Work Like Any Other (Scribner UK) by Virginia Reeves (US)
- My Name Is Lucy Barton (Viking) by Elizabeth Strout (US)
- All That Man Is (Jonathan Cape) by David Szalay (Canada-UK)
- Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Granta Books) by Madeleine Thien (Canada)
So does the longlist contain any surprises? We can see the selection is dominated by UK and US authors this time around. As the Guardian reported on 26 July, two heavy-hitters did not qualify this year, with Deputy Literary Editor Justine Jordan speculating on the other big names in the running the day before the longlist was announced:
This year, the dates knock out two high-profile contenders — the new novels from Smiths Zadie and Ali won’t arrive until after the cutoff. All eyes will be on Ian McEwan, though, and his September novel Nutshell… Also sure to be noted for either absence or presence are Julian Barnes’s Shostakovich novel The Noise of Time, a portrait of art under dictatorship; Rose Tremain’s The Gustav Sonata, about personal and political neutrality; and Don DeLillo’s mordantly chilly Zero K, exploring the poetics of cryonics.
As it turns out, neither McEwan, Barnes, Tremain, nor DeLillo made the shortlist, and Edna O’Brien, Thomas Keneally, and Jonathan Safran Foer were also notable for their absence.
What we can see is that the list showcases a mixture of large and small publishers, with six titles coming from Penguin Random House. The genres are also varied, ranging from crime thriller to historical drama to satire. Congratulations are due to the indie publishers who made it: Granta, Faber & Faber, Contraband, Salt, and Oneworld, which won the prestigious prize last year with Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings.
We also see three debut novels hitting the spotlight: The Many by Menmuir, Hystopia by Means, Work Like Any Other by Reeves, and Eileen by Moshfegh.
Foreman, chair of this year’s judging panel, officially said about the 2016 longlist selection:
This is a very exciting year. The range of books is broad and the quality extremely high. Each novel provoked intense discussion and, at times, passionate debate, challenging our expectations of what a novel is and can be… From the historical to the contemporary, the satirical to the polemical, the novels in this list come from both established writers and new voices. The writing is uniformly fresh, energetic and important. It is a longlist to be relished.
It is certainly interesting to see two thrillers on the list, a genre not so seemingly popular when it comes to the Booker. As Mark Brown, the Guardian arts correspondent, speculated yesterday:
Perhaps the most eye-catching book on the list is Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, a crime thriller published last year by the Scottish independent crime fiction imprint Contraband.
It was not widely reviewed although it was described enthusiastically by the critic Jake Kerridge as “a real box of tricks … a truly ingenious thriller as confusingly multilayered as an Escher staircase.”
Could a crime thriller win the Man Booker prize?
Good luck to all those on the longlist, especially to our fellow indie publishers! The shortlist will be announced on 13 September, with the winner, who will be awarded £50,000, to be revealed on 25 October.
And who’s going to win? It’s early days, but my inner literary radar is currently pointing towards Levy…
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.