Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Lost Booker

The longlist for the 1970 Booker Prize has just been announced. Nope, you didn't read that wrong.  We're talking about what's come to be known as The Lost Booker.

When entry criteria for the prize changed in 1971, books published the previous year were ineligible.  Peter Straus, honorary archivist to the Booker Prize Foundation comments :
I noticed that when Robertson Davies's Fifth Business was first published it carried encomiums from Saul Bellow and John Fowles both of whom judged the 1971 Booker Prize. However judges for 1971 said it had not been considered or submitted. This led to an investigation which concluded that a year had been excluded. I am delighted that, even in a Darwinian way, this year, with so many extraordinary novels, can now be covered by the Man Booker Prize.
But now a team comprising newsreader Katie Derham, poet and novelist Tobias Hill and Observer journalist Rachel Cooke (pictured above ... and all born around 1970) have put together a longlist of 21 titles :
Brian Aldiss - The Hand Reared Boy
Paul Bailey - Trespasses
H.E.Bates - A Little Of What You Fancy
Nina Bawden - The Birds On The Trees
Melvyn Bragg - A Place In England
Christy Brown - Down All The Days
Len Deighton - Bomber
J.G.Farrell - Troubles
Elaine Feinstein - The Circle
Shirley Hazzard - The Bay Of Noon
Reginald Hill - A Clubbable Woman
Susan Hill - I'm The King Of The Castle
Francis King - A Domestic Animal
David Lodge - Out Of The Shelter
Iris Murdoch - A Fairly Honourable Defeat
Shiva Naipaul - Fireflies
Patrick O'Brian - Master and Commander
Mary Renault - Fire From Heaven
Ruth Rendell - A Guilty Thing Surprised
Muriel Spark - The Driver's Seat
Patrick White - The Vivisector
More here at The Guardian.

The Independent highlights the irony of Australian author Patrick White being nominated for such an award posthumously when he loathed literary accolades, and hated the thought of winning the Booker. He demanded to have his name removed from the list in 1979, and sent a friend to collect his Nobel Prize!

Boyd Tonkin points out that bestselling and genre fiction does well on the list, something which has changed since :
The past also looks different once formerly low-ranking kinds of writing rise in our esteem. JG Farrell would go to win with Booker in 1973 (for The Siege of Krishnapur), but in general his brand of richly researched and densely plotted historical fiction would not see its critical stock inch up until well into the next decade. As for the presence of Mary Renault on this shortlist, it indicates a fairly recent willingness to celebrate high-quality bestsellers for literary as well as commercial reasons. Yet change can still be slow. A contemporary equivalent of her much-admired tale of the young Alexander the Great would still struggle to make a Man Booker shortlist today.

No comments: