What, then, of the 2009 shortlist? At first glance, it breaths the spirit of the 1970s. Fiercely English, it is strongly inclined to the historical narrative. Every one of these books explores the past in some form.Robert McCrum weighs up this year's Booker shortlist in The Observer, and it's very nice of him to consider what we think here in KL, isn't it? (I think we just shrug and say "Fine, just guarantee us some quality reading." You all agree?)
Taking few risks, it offers JM Coetzee and AS Byatt the prospect of a return visit to the winner's podium. In a recession, it's a list that will transmit a warm glow of reassurance into the troubled breasts of nervous UK booksellers. God knows what they will make of it in Beijing or Kuala Lumpur.
Occasionally, as it has every right to do, the prize turns its back on posterity. This year, Booker is in denial, big time.
Tim Adams in the same paper makes a very good case for the Booker shortlist this year being symptomatic of the general British desire to escape into the past.
Fiction editor at The Telegraph, Lorna Bradbury, is very happy with the selection:
There hasn’t been a Man Booker shortlist to match this one since 2005, when the shortlisted novelists Kazuo Ishiguro and Zadie Smith went on to split the judges so irrevocably that John Banville came out the ultimate winner. ... If the longlist contained the requisite number of outsiders and eccentrics, such as James Lever’s comic novel narrated by Cheeta the Chimp, the shortlist concentrates on quality and seriousnessIn an interesting piece at The Irish Times, Fintan O'Toole, reckons that Irish authors William Trevor, Ed O’Loughlin and Colm Tóibín didn't make the cut this year because :
The advance word had hinted at a feeling that there have been quite enough Irish winners for the moment, thank you. .... (And also because) Irishness is losing its gloss.So much can be read into a shortlist!