American writers dominate the Man Booker Prize long list with five inclusions followed by the UK with three. Ireland, Jamaica, Nigeria, India and New Zealand all have one. Already this has fuelled a renewal of opposition to the expansion of the prize to writers from outside the UK& Commonwealth, Zimbabwe and the Republic of Ireland last year.
How many books is too many? I confess there’s more than a little self interest involved in the question. The long list for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has just been announced and it’s a whopping 20 books long, albeit from 165 original applicants. The prize, which was previously known as the Orange, is for a full-length novel written in english by a woman of any nationality and published in the United Kingdom.
Of course a plus for having long lists longer than the customary 10 or 12 titles is that many more authors are able to get their moment in the literary sunshine. This particularly applies to debut authors of which the long list has five including Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing, which won the Costa Prize, and Laline Paull’s dystopian The Bees. It also gives the judges the opportunity to broaden the range of work celebrated beyond what might be viewed as more “conventional” subject and style.
On the downside, I know I am not alone in liking to read as many of the contenders for
I fling open my bedroom curtains, and there’s the thirsty sky and the wide river full of ships and boats and stuff, but I’m already thinking of Vinny’s chocolatey eyes, shampoo down Vinny’s back, beads of sweat on Vinny’s shoulders, and Vinny’s sly laugh, and by now my heart’s going…
First there was a Norwegian called Ove Knausgaard winning plaudits for his autobiographical collection of six books under the umbrella title My Struggle. Now we have A Man Called Ove, Swedish this time, written by blogger and columnist Fredrik Backman which sold more than 500,000 in his native country and…
At 17, Kevin Powers joined the army and found himself in Iraq serving as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar. On his return to America, he was constantly asked What was it like? Powers’ extraordinary debut novel, The Yellow Bird, is one man’s answer to what even he does not fully understand.
As Powers explains in the preface: “What I’ve written is not meant to report or document, nor is it meant to argue or advocate. Instead I’ve tried with what little skill I have to create the cartography of one man’s consciousness, to let it stand, however briefly, as my reminder.”
The Yellow Birds centres on the lives of three soldiers as their platoon prepares for an assault on a nearby Iraqi community.
There is Bartle who joined the army in his teens and at 21 is a combat veteran. He is torn between putting on the uniform of callous bravado just to survive and being mentally eaten away by the agonising awfulness of his existence.