Its Booker longlist day, which despite been drowned out a little by the r***l b***h, is still one of my favourite days of the year. I love the Booker, its longevity, its primacy - they make it fun even when you quibble with the results. But though I usually read the winner and always buy the shortlist, funnily enough its since they've started announcing the longlist that things have got really interesting. Amongst the "who is on" or "who is off", this year there doesn't seem to be any outcrying about big names missing; and maybe that's because its quite hard to know who are the big names these days. The older generation aren't exactly novel-a-year types these days after all. I was surprised to read that Jim Crace (on the list for the intriguely sounding "Harvest") has talked about this as his last novel. Remarkably he's 67 - the same age as Julian Barnes and four years older than Martin Amis. Somehow I'd thought him the next generation... always an interesting writer, his "Arcadia" remains one of my favourite late 20th century novels. Crace, alongside Colm Toibin is probably the best known writer on the list this year.
The judges have proclaimed the list the most "diverse" ever - which you'd probably only know if you'd read all the books. As usual there's a mix of the contemporary and the historical; the very British and the very commonwealth, with at least one pseudo-American writer on the list. (The quirk of Booker qualification means that most years we seem to have one writer who is eligible through birth or passport whilst being to all intents and purposes an American novelist.) None of the Best of Young British Granta list have made this years Booker longlist, surprisingly, I'd have said in the case of at least a couple, but it may be that not that many had novels published in this years "window." I like the snapshot the Booker gives of fiction each year, and its usually the longlist that furnishes the books that I really treasure - perhaps something about the need to create a consensual shortlist means the more quirky or individualistic books often drop off before that point. I'm particularly fascinated by the sound of Richard House's "1000 page" "The Kills".
It wouldn't be the Booker without a gripe or two of course - there are at least five of the books on this years longlist that you can't get in the shops yet. Given that a few of these books will drop off the longlist in early September I kind of hope that good books don't lose their brief moment in the sun through tardy publishing dates.
And of course, if its Booker time, its also "Not the Booker" time - the Guardian's always fun, always chaotic attempt to find an alternate list to the real one.
Not on the Booker list, but surely a contender for Not the Booker, Manchester-based Socrates Adams' 2nd novel is being launched this week in at Blackwells this Thursday.
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