October 2, 2013

Two Melville House books shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize

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“a strange and ecstatic 714-page prayer” (Faber & Faber edition)

“a book both about Britain today and about what is precious and needs to be preserved”

Melville House is celebrating the news that two of our books have been shortlisted for the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize, both Melville House UK author Lars Iyer’s Exodus and David Peace’s Red or Dead (which Melville House will publish in America next year, and is published by Faber & Faber in the UK). The prize was established at the beginning of the year in order to ‘celebrate the qualities of creative daring…and to reward fiction that breaks the mould or opens up new possibilities for the novel form.’ The prize of £10,000 will be ‘awarded to a book that is deemed genuinely novel and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterises the genre at its best’.

Co-Founder and Publisher of Melville House and Melville House UK Dennis Johnson said that:

“Having two of our authors on the shortlist for such a wonderful and discerning award is a thrill. It’s a terrific affirmation of the work of these great writers, and of the house itself. Hats off to the Goldsmiths Prize for such in-depth support of British literature.”

In yesterday’s online announcement, the judges praised “the shortlisted novels [which] embody the creative daring and exuberant inventiveness which the Goldsmiths Prize was created to showcase and reward.” The chair of the judges, Tim Parnell, wrote that:

“All six books are strikingly original and all of them refuse the ready comforts of convention. Making full use of the resources and possibilities of the novel form, each writer has found the distinct idiom that their story demands.”

Commenting on Exodus, judge Gabriel Josipovici wrote:

“Who would have thought that a book about two disillusioned teachers of philosophy travelling round the country, talking about, among other things, Kierkegaard and the death of philosophy could be so gripping? Lars Iyer, however, has made it so, partly because he is often so funny and partly because he and his protagonists really do believe, and persuade us to believe, in the values they see disappearing before their eyes, under the pressure of successive philistine governments. In the end this, like the work of Patrick Keiller, but much funnier, is a book both about Britain today and about what is precious and needs to be preserved.

This is high praise for Iyer, but not at all surprising. Iyer has long been a favourite of many of our readers, and his three part series Spurious, Dogma and Exodus each received sensational reviews when they were published. Iyer said of the nomination:

“In a field overcrowded with literary awards, the Goldsmiths Prize stands out. It is an honour to be shortlisted for a prize that seeks to reward fiction that breaks the mould. “

While Johnson praised Iyer and his writing:

 “Lars Iyer is a special writer — he grants the reader great intelligence, he’s flat-out hilarious, and he’s deeply concerned with the culture of his country. I’ve always believed there was a bigger audience for such thoughtful writing, and it’s a terrific development for British literature that the Goldsmiths Prize has set about being a champion of such work.”

Meanwhile Nicola Barker was effusive in her description of Red or Dead:

It is monolithic. It is unrelenting. It is truly brave and it is utterly heroic…I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like Red or Dead before. Not ever. Peace has created the perfect mantra for life, for love, for obsession, for sport. And that mantra is a strange and ecstatic 714-page prayer. 

Red or Dead is the fictional biography of famed Liverpool Football Club coach, Bill Shankly. Peace was one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2003 and among his novels is The Damned Utd, which was made into a film in 2009. He called Goldsmith’s announcement a “great surprise” and a “tremendous honor.”

Johnson called the book “one of the most moving things I’ve read in a very long time. It’s certainly genius to approach biography this way, but this is a deeper portrait than that — it’s a stirring depiction of the death of British socialism.”

The shortlist is also a coup for independent publishers. Sam Jordison, who co-runs Galley Beggar Press, which published Eimear McBride’s debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which also made the shortlist said:

We’re incredibly proud to have published Eimear and delighted she’s getting the validation she deserves. Our game plan was always to publish the kind of books that serious readers love and marketing men fear… But we had no idea that we’d have so much success so quickly.

Finally, it’s just wonderful to have a book on such a strong shortlist. Obviously I’m incredibly biased when I say this — but it kicks the shit out of the Booker shortlist. I’m really pleased that Goldsmiths has stepped up and done something good for British fiction in the very year the Booker has decided to destroy itself and become a second rate Pulitzer.

The complete shortlist:

The winner will be announced at a ceremony on 13th November.

 

Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.

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