The Man Booker judges announce their shortlist on Tuesday. The 12 novels on the longlist will be cut to just 6.
This year’s panel (Sir Peter Stothard chairing, with Dinah Birdh, Amanda Foreman, Dan Stevens and Bharat Tandon as judges) have a tough time ahead. For my money they’ve compiled one of the most interesting longlists in recent memory. It seems like an almost impossible task to cut the 12 to 6, but it must be done.
Here, then, are the six novels I think will make the shortlist, in no particular order:
‘Umbrella’ by Will Self
‘Bring up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel
‘The Lighthouse’ by Alison Moore
‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce
‘Philida’ by Andre Brink
‘The Yips’ by Nicola Barker
The first five on that list seemed easy. But the final position oscillates between The Yips and Ned Beauman’s The Teleportation Accident. I plumped for The Yips as I think The Teleportation Accident loses some of its power in the final 50 pages (but up until then it is absolutely superb).
Why I chose these six:
I think ‘Umbrella’ deserves its place because Will Self’s novel is brilliantly constructed, engaging, funny, and proof that the modernist edge in fiction can still produce interesting and challenging works.
‘Bring up the Bodies’ deserves its place as Hilary Mantel has again bought the past to living, breathing life, and the control of her material is exemplary.
‘The Lighthouse’ is a rich, textured novel, beautifully written, and with such depth despite its brevity, that it is a novel we shall return to again.
‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ has gone through to my shortlist simply because I think it is very funny, very touching, wonderfully written and has proven to be a winner with audiences. I think it’s the only novel on the longlist that actually made me cry.
‘Philida’ is another historical novel where the author is in complete control. Andre Brink has managed something unsettling and compelling in this novel, and it has, with Harold Fry, one of the more engaging and unique protagonists on the longlist.
And finally, ‘The Yips’ because, on the basis of this, Nicola Barker is an absolute talent that deserves to be rewarded. The Yips isn’t without flaws (it’s too long, for starters, and there’s just too much going on) but each page has something brilliant on it (a gag, a line of dialogue, a description, a character) and for a novel about golf, it is surprisingly fun.
So there we have it, the six novels I think will make the shortlist.
Why I lost the others:
I lost Sam Thompson’s ‘Communion Town’ as I think it’s not a novel, but a collection of short stories, and this will be noted negatively by the judges (though they were right to reward it).
I lost ‘Narcopolis’ by Jeet Thayil because I think that, though there is some very great writing in this novel, it ultimately doesn’t quite hang together, and there are a few plot strands that could easily have been lost.
I lost ‘Skios’ by Michael Frayn quite simply because this is another novel that falls apart in its final pages, and though it is very funny, it is not Michael Frayn’s best work.
I lost ‘Swimming Home’ by Deborah Levy at great pains. I think it is a very fine novel, with a great sense of place and tone, and she is certainly a talent to watch.
I lost ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ by Tan Twan Eng because its pace is a little uneven, and there is simply too much going on in it.
I lost ‘The Teleportation Accident’ by Ned Beauman, as I have already said, with great pains as well. I think it a mostly very fine novel, with a somewhat frustrating climax given what has preceded it.
The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2012 will be announced on Tuesday 11 September.
The winner of the Man Booker Prize 2012 will be announced on Tuesday the 16th of October.
Who do I think favourite to win at the moment? Will Self’s ‘Umbrella’.