Tag: man booker shortlist

My Thoughts on the Man Booker Changes

Posted September 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

man booker 2013People are talking about the changes to the Man Booker Prize and I thought I would weigh in as well. I’ve already talked about My Thoughts on the Man Booker and the love hate relationship I have with this award but I want to express my thoughts to this outrage. I follow the Man Booker and sometimes I’m impressed but I do not like the changes to the Man Booker Prize next year, and it’s not because of the inclusion of Americans.

The major change to the Man Booker is that this award will include all English written novels and I know people are upset with this. The only major English speaking country that wasn’t included in the Man Booker Prize before was America and people are upset that someone like Jonathan Franzen could win the award but I have to ask, what about the other American authors? I look at this year in American literature and I think books like The Son by Philipp Meyer, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra and All That Is by James Salter could have be nominated and I’d be happy to see them make the long list.

The major problem I have is with the change in the submission guidelines. Originally each publisher and imprint could nominate two books to be put forward for the prize but now to make room for other countries they have dropped it down to one submission each, it gets a little more concerning with the wildcard nominations. All publishers and imprints that get a book included in the longlist over the past five years get extra submissions.

  • 1 submission – publishers with no listing
  • 2 submissions – publishers with 1 or 2 longlisting(s)
  • 3 submissions – publishers with 3 or 4 longlistings
  • 4 submissions – publishers with 5 or more longlistings

The concern I have with this is the fact that some publishers will have a chance to grow and the little indie publishers might struggle. The Man Booker Prize is a huge money maker. The Nielsen Bookscan have released a list of the sale jumps for the Man Booker winners for the past 10 years, books like Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel and The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes see a jump in sales of over 450% but the other books had a boost of about 700-2000%. This means that the Man Booker sales boosts can potential help a publisher with four books in a longlist while some of the little publishers could struggle to make one on the list.

Apart from worrying about the small publishers, I think the submission guidelines could mean some publishers can put forward more obscure book choices and some will only have one chance to make it onto the list and the worry is that they will submit the most popular book rather than an unknown book that deserves the attention. I know Folio is starting a new literary prize because the Man Booker Prize has become too readable (whatever that means) so they might be the one to watch in future years. What do you think of the changes? What are your concerns?


The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

Posted September 22, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Testament of Mary by Colm TóibínTitle: The Testament of Mary (Goodreads)
Author: Colm Tóibín
Published: Picador, 2013
Pages: 104
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In the town of Ephesus, Mary lived alone. She had no interest in collaborating with the authors of the gospels. For her, the crucifixion of her son years ago has left her indifferent to the rest of the world. Whether or not she believes that his death was worth it, he was still her son and witnessing the events that lead to him dying have been very emotional. This is The Testament of Mary.

I read this book on the Nativity of Mary (September 8th); while I’m not Catholic it felt like the perfect day to read this novella. The book is both bitter sweet and full of rage; not for or against Catholicism. While the author Colm Tóibín is born Irish Catholic but now identifies as an atheist. While this book isn’t theologically sound, it was an interesting look into what it might have been like to watch Jesus’s journey on earth.

I never really thought about what it might have been like to witness miracles, resurrections and the crucifixion of Jesus. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be the mother of Jesus, let alone experiencing all these unexpected events involving her son. The rage, the compassion, the isolation and pride that Mary must of experience all comes into play in this novella.

The Testament of Mary is a tender and heart breaking book, not really religious or anti religious. The balance is just right. The only problem I have is the theology but I have to let this go and remind myself that this was a work a fiction. Being raised as a Pentecostal, I never really cared too much about the life of Mary apart from her giving birth to Jesus but then going onto marry a Catholic my views have changed a little. My views towards Mary may not be in line with my wife’s but that is beside the point.

A quick and interesting work of fiction into the life of Mary; I loved the way this book was written. It really had a way of sweeping me into a story and expressing the emotions she faced in an affectionate and sour way. We have no idea what Mary would have felt but I can only imagine the fixed emotions that went through her mind. While this novella is haunting and stubborn in it’s approach, it is a compassionate and provocative read; this doesn’t work to counteract each other but only highlights the beauty of the mixed emotions.


Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Posted October 18, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Science Fiction / 0 Comments

Cloud Atlas by David MitchellTitle: Cloud Atlas (Goodreads)
Author: David Mitchell
Published: Random House, 2004
Pages: 529
Genres: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Cloud Atlas is a really difficult book to review; it starts off as a Journal circa 1850 documenting a voyage home from the Chatham Islands, then it’s a series of letters from a 1930’s English musician to a Belgian composer, then a journalist from 1975 investigating for a novel that will blow the whistle on a new nuclear power plant , a 21st century publisher is fleeing from gangsters in a  movie dramatization, a dystopian future story told from genetically-engineered clone’s perspective and finally the post-apocalyptic future where technology is all wiped out. Confusing? Well this book does all come together to make Cloud Atlas a truly interesting book to read but I don’t think it worked as intended.

I think author David Mitchell is too clever for his own good in this book. The stories do all come together and he really shows off by writing each section in the best genre style to suit what is happening but he is just doing too much in this book. I feel like I’m just starting to get invested in the story of one protagonist and then Mitchell jumps to the next one without any sense of resolution. Sure he does return to each story a second time around but by then I feel like it’s too late for me.

David Mitchell really flexes his literary muscles in the book and he is a wonderful writer but there is so much happening and I never felt like he achieved what he was hoping for. I’m not sure cutting from six to three or four story arcs would have helped the book but it might have helped the reader become more invested. I particularly liked the thriller style of the investigative journalist and that gangster story line of the publisher but when their story is just getting exciting it’s all over and we have to move on to the next one.

Cloud Atlas is an interesting, clever book but this doesn’t make it a good book; I enjoyed parts of it and other parts infuriated me. I will say I’m glad to have read it before the movie adaptation is released but it’s not something I ever want to revisit again. I get that he is trying to do a novel about evolution or reincarnation; as each protagonist bares the same birth mark but that element of the book never really went anywhere. I know some people really love this book but I felt like it was too much of a show off. I’d like to read a David Mitchell book where he sticks to one genre instead of all of them.


Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

Posted October 16, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Swimming Home by Deborah LevyTitle: Swimming Home (Goodreads)
Author: Deborah Levy
Published: Bloomsbury, 2012
Pages: 178
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

A group of tourists holidaying in the French Riviera arrive at their summer villa only to find something floating in the swimming pool. One of them thinks it’s a bear, but it turns out to be a very naked stranger. The woman Kitty, having nowhere else to go, joins the group and ends up being a big disruption to the group in this deeply psychology dark novel.

Ok, I’ll admit that the main reason I decided to read this book was because it was short listed for the Man Booker award but let’s face it, after reading what the book was about, I thought it was my type of book. These characters are rich and the addition of a very explosive character made for a fascinating read. At times during the book I felt reminded of that 90’s psychological thriller Wild Things; there was so many unanswered questions that really helped drive this story along. Sure, it is not as twisted as that movie but the psychological aspects are there; at times there are even shades of noir coming through.

Deborah Levy does so much with such a small book; the joy of reading the book is seeing what she doesn’t say. In this aspect I think I would compare her to someone like Kafka, where what she says has so much depth and meaning that it’s really what makes this book so great. Womanising and depression maybe the catalyst but my joy came from the dark and witty elements found throughout this writing.

I’ve not read any of the other books shortlisted for this year Man Booker but I’m hoping this book wins; it has so much in it and I think winning this award would give it the exposure that this book deserves. I’m sure there are many elements of this book I might have missed but I enjoyed the book so much that I’ve already started reading through it again. A literary highlight for my reading journey this year; Swimming Home is well worth picking up.