Friday, July 29, 2016

Booker Season

That is to say that mid-summer is traditionally when the Man Booker Prize long list comes out.  The 2016 long list is here.  I have two main thoughts regarding the Booker Prize: 1) I think it was probably a mistake to open the prize up to authors from the U.S., as there are plenty of prizes already available to U.S. authors and 2) there is a certain sameness to many of the books, though there is a slightly wider array of genres included in the long-list in recent years (though most don't make the cut to the short list).  David Means's Hystopia is probably the most out-there novel from this year's long-list -- an acid trip of a book where JFK wasn't assassinated and Vietnam War vets come home to have their memories wiped away.  I can't tell if I would like this or not, but I'll certainly consider it at some point down the road.  (Perhaps I am somewhat influenced by the fact Means grew up in Kalamazoo but moved away, which is also basically my life story in a nut shell.)

I would also probably institute some limit on the number of times an author can be put on the long list.  If Coetzee makes it to the short list (as is likely) that would make his 4th appearance on the short list.  Salman Rushdie has also made the short list 4 times.  That's not even a record: Iris Murdoch made the short list 5 times, as has Margaret Atwood!  (Wikipedia has a very useful list of all the Booker winners, as well as the rest of the short list, from 1969-2015 here.)

Anyway, I decided to quickly go through the short listed books to see how many I had read (or at least owned), and then I added just a few to my TBR pile.  This is the outcome of that search:

Author Title
1971 R Doris Lessing Briefing for a Descent into Hell
1971 O Mordecai Richler St Urbain's Horseman
1971 O Elizabeth Taylor Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
1974 O Kingsley Amis Ending Up
1977 O Barbara Pym Quartet in Autumn
1978 O Iris Murdoch The Sea, the Sea
1978 O Kingsley Amis Jake's Thing
1978 TBR Penelope Fitzgerald The Bookshop
1979 R V. S. Naipaul A Bend in the River
1980 O Anthony Burgess Earthly Powers
1980 R Alice Munro The Beggar Maid (aka Who Do You Think You Are?)
1980 O J. L. Carr A Month in the Country
1981 R Salman Rushdie Midnight's Children
1981 R Molly Keane Good Behaviour
1981 R Doris Lessing The Sirian Experiments
1981 O D. M. Thomas The White Hotel
1983 R J. M. Coetzee Life & Times of Michael K
1983 R Malcolm Bradbury Rates of Exchange
1983 R Salman Rushdie Shame
1983 O Graham Swift Waterland
1984 R Julian Barnes Flaubert's Parrot
1984 O David Lodge Small World
1985 O Keri Hulme The Bone People
1985 R Doris Lessing The Good Terrorist
1985 R Jan Morris Last Letters from Hav
1986 O Kingsley Amis The Old Devils
1986 R Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale
1986 R Robertson Davies What's Bred in the Bone
1987 TBR Penelope Lively Moon Tiger
1988 O David Lodge Nice Work
1988 R Salman Rushdie The Satanic Verses
1989 R Kazuo Ishiguro The Remains of the Day
1989 R Margaret Atwood Cat's Eye
1991 R Ben Okri The Famished Road
1991 R Rohinton Mistry Such a Long Journey
1992 R Michael Ondaatje The English Patient
1993 R Carol Shields The Stone Diaries
1996 TBR Margaret Atwood Alias Grace
1996 R Rohinton Mistry A Fine Balance
1997 R Arundhati Roy The God of Small Things
1999 R Michael Frayn Headlong
2000 O Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin
2000 R Matthew Kneale English Passengers
2001 R Ali Smith Hotel World
2002 R Yann Martel Life of Pi
2002 O Rohinton Mistry Family Matters
2002 O Carol Shields Unless
2003 O Monica Ali Brick Lane
2003 O Margaret Atwood Oryx and Crake
2004 TBR Alan Hollinghurst The Line of Beauty
2004 R David Mitchell Cloud Atlas
2005 R John Banville The Sea
2006 R Kiran Desai The Inheritance of Loss
2006 R Sarah Waters The Night Watch
2007 R Mohsin Hamid The Reluctant Fundamentalist
2008 R Aravind Adiga The White Tiger
2008 TBR Amitav Ghosh Sea of Poppies
2010 R Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question
2010 TBR Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America
2012 TBR Deborah Levy Swimming Home
2012 R Jeet Thayil Narcopolis
2013 TBR NoViolet Bulawayo We Need New Names
2013 O Jhumpa Lahiri The Lowland
2013 TBR Joshua Ferris To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
2014 TBR Neel Mukherjee The Lives of Others
2015 R Tom McCarthy Satin Island
2015 TBR Chigozie Obioma The Fishermen
2016 TBR Deborah Levy Hot Milk

This makes for a total of 36 read with another 20 unread, but on the shelves, and then 12 more on my TBR list.  So I have not quite made it to at least one read from each year, but I am relatively close.  It does appear that I am not synced up with the Booker list until roughly 1978, after which point I am usually interested in one or two books per year.

This exercise reminded me once again that I keep confusing Penelope Fitzgerald and Penelope Lively.  I will make a more concerted effort to read a few novels by each author.  In addition to a few to be read in the list above, I am also going to add Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower and Lively's How It All Began.  Perhaps that will help me anchor the two separately in my mind.

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