Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's Bookertime!

I've written in the past about how the Booker Prize, despite having different judges each year, does seem to have "phases" - at least in retrospect. Over the last three or four years there's been a definite sense that it is reverting to a middle-brown unsensationalism, perhaps the better for it. As a grand dame of literary prizes it can probably afford a step back from the 80s/90s frontline it sometimes seemed standing on the edge of. Also, as publishing appears ever more conservative, and exciting new names haven't really come zinging out of the traps, the sense of "entitlement" that used to grip the prize, particularly when some name was either included or excluded, is no more. So this year, its business as usual, a longlist of 13 books (a manageable number.) As ever, the books are rarely in the shops, never mind the public consciousness at the time of the longlist launch. Historical fiction is an ever-popular Booker trope and dominates again this year; though the lack of Indian writers this year may just be one of those things. (At Norwich recently Xu Xi had noted how Asian winners of the Booker tended to be first time or early career novelists.)

James Lever's appearance on the list for his faux biography "Me Cheeta" seems a little cheeky one way or another, yes, of course its fiction, but a fiction presented as celeb-biog. It kind of undermines the project to file it under literary fiction rather than biography... Perhaps the most interesting name on the list, outside of the Mantels, Toibins, Coetzees, Byatts was James Scudamore. I recognised the name, and was trying to remember where from. Then I remembered. On leaving Norwich after the Worlds festival I caught the train to London with writer Robin Hemley and he was seeing Scudamore whilst in London and had told me what a good novelist he was. I promised to keep an eye out. Well, promise kept. It seems Scudamore, with his Sao Paulo set second novel "Heliopolis," might be an intriguing dark horse.


Flat Out said...

we just appointed mr scudamore to one of the Writers' Centre Norwich/UEA Fellowships!

Luck or good timing, who knows?

Anthony said...

My money is on Coetzee, not that he needs the boost. My heart is with Sarah Hall, who's book was unexpectedly good.

Adrian Slatcher said...

I'd like to read either of those - Hall and Scudamore - ahead of the more well known names. I've ordered Scudamore's previous novel from Book Depository. Let's bet they'll be on the shortlist, at least.