2016 Man Booker Winner: Paul Beatty

UPDATE: Paul Beatty’s The Sellout  wins the 2016 Man Booker!

sellout-blog-imagePaul Beatty’s The Sellout, Deborah Levy’s Hot MilkGraeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody ProjectOttessa Moshfegh’s EileenDavid Szalay’s All That Man Is, and Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing made the cut from a longlist of 13 titles announced in July. Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings earned the 2015 Man Bookerthe first time for a Jamaican novelist, and a first for indie publisher Oneworld Publications. With Paul Beatty’s novel, Oneworld is hoping for a repeat performance.

Each shortlisted author will receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner will receive an additional £50,000.

The Man Booker 2015 Winner is Marlon James!

Marlon James is the first author from Jamaica to win the Man Booker Prize.  - peoplewhowrite

Marlon James is the first author from Jamaica to win the Man Booker Prize.

UPDATE: Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings has earned the Man Booker Prize 2015, a first for a Jamaican novelist, and the first for indie publisher Oneworld Publications. Michael Wood, who chaired the panel of judges, said of the 686-page book that featured 75 characters, “It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.” James wins £52,500 — £50,000 for earning the prize and £2,500 for making the shortlist — as well as a trophy and designer bound edition of his book.

Richard Flanagan won the Man Booker Prize 2014 with his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

UPDATE: The Man Booker 2015 shortlist, announced today, includes:
Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings
Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island
Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen
Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways 
Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread
Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life

The website announcement notes:

Tom McCarthy is the only shortlisted author to have been nominated before, having been shortlisted for C in 2010.

Marlon James is the first Jamaican-born author to be shortlisted for the prize. Chigozie Obioma is the second Nigerian to be nominated, after Ben Okri. Of the six authors, two are resident in the UK and four in the United States.

At 28, Chigozie Obioma is the youngest of this year’s shortlisted authors, the same age as 2013 winner Eleanor Catton.

Two independent publishers make it to the shortlist: Oneworld Publications and ONE, an imprint of Pushkin Press. Penguin Random House have two authors on the list (from their Jonathan Cape and Chatto & Windus imprints), as does Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan.

Read the full announcement here.

Five judges–Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith, and Frances Osborne–chaired by Michael Wood, have culled 156 books in consideration for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, to 13. The diverse longlist for the £50,000 2015 Prize, not to be confused with the Man Booker International Prize, boasts an author each from India, Ireland, Jamaica, Nigeria, and New Zealand, in addition to five Americans, and three Brits.

The longlist includes the debut novel of New York-based literary agent Bill Clegg, and the third novel and 2015 Pulitzer Prize Finalist by Laila Lalami. It also nods to 2007 Man Booker Prizewinner Anne Enright, 1983 Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist Anne Tyler, and Marlon James. New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani called James’ lauded third novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, “monumental”. Chigozie Obioma‘s debut novel The Fishermen, released in February, and also on the list,  is racking up major acknowledgments including the inaugural FT/Oppenheimer Award, The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and the New York Times Editor’s Choice.

The abovementioned authors contend with the formidable and celebrated talents Tom McCarthy, Anuradha Roy, Sunjeev Sahota, Anna Smaill, Hanya Yanagihara, and Marilynne Robinson.

The full list is below:

Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family
Anne Enright’s The Green Road
Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings
Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account
Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island
Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen
Andrew O’Hagan’s The Illuminations
Marilynne Robinson’s Lila
Anuradha Roy’s Sleeping on Jupiter
Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways
Anna Smaill’s The Chimes
Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread
Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life

Six of the 13 books will be selected for the Prize’s shortlist on September 15, 2015 and each shortlisted author will receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner, announced on October 13, 2015, will receive an additional £50,000.

Richard Flanagan Has Won the 2014 Man Booker Prize

Richard Flanagan has won the 2015 Man Booker Prize - peoplewhowrite

Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North beat out To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua FerrisWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy FowlerJ by Howard JacobsonThe Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, and How to be Both by Ali Smith to win the 2014 Man Booker Prize, worth £50,000. According to BBC.com, the chair of judges AC Grayling said he and his fellow jurors debated for three hours before reaching a majority decision. “The two great themes from the origin of literature are love and war: this is a magnificent novel of love and war,” Grayling said.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Flanagan’s sixth novel, is inspired by Flanagan’s father. A Japanese prisoner of war in the 1940s, the elder Flanagan was forced to help build the Death Railway between Bangkok, Thailand and Rangoon, Burma in 1943 to support Japanese forces. Over 100,000 people died in construction of the railway.

“He trusted me, he never asked me what the story was,” Flanagan told the BBC. The book took him 12 years to finish. “But I did talk to him often about very small things. What the mud was like, what the smell of a rotting tropical ulcer that had eaten through to the shin bone exactly was. What a tiny ball of sour rice would taste like when you’re starving, what starvation felt like in your belly and your brain.”

The day he finished the novel, Flanagan’s father, 98, died.

This was the first year the Man Booker Prize was open to English Language writers outside the Commonwealth. The Tasmania-born author remarked “In Australia the Man Booker is sometimes seen as something of a chicken raffle. I just didn’t expect to end up the chicken.”

The 2014 Man Booker Shortlist is Here

The six titles shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker PrizeThe 2014 Man Booker longlist has been whittled down from 13 to the six titles on the shortlist. 2014 is the first year authors of any title written in English are eligible–a change that was received with fear that Commonwealth writers would be edged out. Three Brits, two Americans, and one Australian made the cut under the new rules:

Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries, won the £50,000 prize last year. Last week, she announced she would be launching a grant that rewards writers not with time to write, but time to read.

Hilary Mantel Short Story Will Run First in the New York Times Book Review

Hilary Mantel - peoplewhowrite

Hilary Mantel

An excerpt of Hilary Mantel‘s upcoming short story collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher will run first in the NYT Book Review on September 28th. Publishers Marketplace reports that the collection’s title story will also be featured in UK outlet The Telegraph on September 20.

NYTBR editor Pamela Paul told PM the Review “would love to do more first serials and excerpts, albeit selectively.” Mantel won the 2012 Man Booker Prize and the 2012 Costa Award (a first) for her period novel Bring Up the Bodies set in Henry VIII’s England. Paul says the short is “a shift from her two most recent historical novels.”  

The 2014 Man Booker Longlist Announced

Longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize - peoplewhowrite

Longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize

The 2014 Man Booker Longlist is here. For the first time, the prize is open to any title written in English (rather than just English and Commonwealth Writers); a change that was received with some grumbling for fear that future judges would privilege North American sensibilities. The longlist features six Britons, four Americans, two Irish writers, and one Australian:

Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries won the prestigious £50,000 prize last year.

Eleanor Catton wins the Man Booker Prize

Eleanor Catton has won the 2013 Man Booker Prize. - peoplewhowrite

Eleanor Catton, winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries has won the Man Booker Prize worth £50,000.

The Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker-Bowles presented the prize in England’s Guildhall tonight. Jim Crace, author of Harvest and the oldest of the contending authors was widely believed to be the favorite (at least that was the impression many expressed on Twitter) though the Twitterverse could not say enough about Catton, the youngest on the shortlist. The social media network was a nail biting nerve center in the minutes and seconds before the announcement as the #ManBookerPrize hashtag reported mood swings of anxiety and soccer hooligan-like passion.

151 titles were originally in consideration before Man Booker Judges Robert MacFarlaneMartha KearneyStuart Kelly,Natalie Haynes, and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst edited down to the 13 authors on the  Longlist in July. In September, the judges cut the list in half to six novels:

We Need New Names NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)
The Luminaries Eleanor Catton (Granta)
Harvest Jim Crace (Picador)
The Lowland Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)
A Tale for the Time Being Ruth Ozeki (Canongate)
The Testament of Mary Colm Tóibín (Viking)
Catton’s win could signal increased support for debut and young talent amongst the literary establishment which often pays lip service in support of new writers while nurturing back lists and investing in past successes.

Isn’t the "Global Novel" Human Too?

Pankaj Mishra on the global novel - peoplewhowrite

Pankaj Mishra

There’s a provocative piece on FT.com called “Beyond the Global Novel.” In it, the writer Pankaj Mishra lays out the complexity / irony of the titular subject. Interchanging “global” with “postcolonial”–and challenging American literature’s right to be considered among global novels (on the heels of the Man Booker announcement they would open prize contention to American authors too)–Mishra takes up the argument of novelist Philip Hensher that the diversity of  literature emerging from African and Asian authors is only skin deep.

Hensher specifically asserts the Man Booker shortlist panders to North American sensibilities, writing, “Curiously, all these novels, effectively written by American-based authors about exotic places, were unable to do so without placing the exotic places in the reassuring context of an American suburb.” Mishra paraphrases Hensher’s assertion (and calls it an exaggeration): “every writer of non-western origin seems to be vending a consumable–rather than a challenging–cultural otherness.”

Mishra adds in counterpoint, “it would be untenable to deny that there are diverse reckonings with issues of class, race, religion and gender, and a bracingly ambivalent relationship with nationalism and global capitalism, in the work of Nadeem Aslam, Teju Cole, Hisham Matar, Tash Aw, Tan Twan Eng, Kamila Shamsie, Mohammed Hanif, Damon Galgut, Tahmima Anam, Zoë Wicomb, Laila Lalami, Helon Habila, Aminatta Forna and Pettina Gappah.”

The arguments are at once familiar and surprising.

Familiar in that both assert authority on what the African=Asian=global=postcolonial scribe is supposed to write , and surprising because there is, in 2013, still so much paternalistic concern about what said authors choose to document or imagine. Both Mishra and Hensher fear the bully power they believe the ugly Americans will introduce in next year’s Man Booker race, even as they put their own dukes up, strong arming the idea of what constitutes “meaningful” literature from the postcolonial world.

Mishra and Hensher essentially agree that global literature means something when it “focus[es] public attention on social, economic and political ills”; when it is nationally and historically specific; when it defies the myths and legends supplied by the imperialist power signing the prize check. To follow this strand, literature that is not deemed to perform this function is meaningless.

One of the most frustrating things about being a person–let alone a culture creator and bearer–that does not trace her or his roots to the once sunset-less British empire or “The West” in general is being trapped within a discourse you did not start whose resolution nevertheless has high stakes for your well-being. The patronizing pattern of imperialism is endlessly repeated as the fate of the children of the colonized is decided by bickering superpower parents or their proxies.

Mishra and Hensher mean well. Both aim to protect the children from the parents as it were, but they are patronizing all the same and leave little room for the subversion that emerges from the “apolitical and borderless cosmos.”

Here’s where I get paternalistic and insert my own strand into the discourse.

Subversion takes on many forms and by virtue of its definition requires some stealth. Some African-Americans enslaved in the antebellum United States, for example, broke their tools to undermine productivity on the plantations they were forced to work.  Likewise, the novel that does not explicitly (or implicitly) address the “terror of war and the horror of peace” is in effect subverting expectations, daring to preoccupy itself with matters meaningful to itself, challenging Western readers to inhabit a universe that is not familiarly foreign, if that makes sense. Like readers that originate outside of Europe or the US, Western consumers of African=Asian=global=postcolonial literature must endeavor to enter a world that challenges preconceptions, or confirms them. They must exercise the muscle of their imagination and do the work of researching strange phrases and idioms.  They must (gasp) separate the baggage of history and politics from the humanity, and put themselves in the characters’ shoes. After all, isn’t the “global novel”  a human novel too?

Of course, humanity is never immune from the forces–political, social, economic, religious, et al–that surround it. These factors impart explicit and inadvertent influence and whether the author leads with them or not, they come out. Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, for example, is on its face about a family’s undoing in the wake of the patriarch’s abrupt abandonment, but the context of that abandonment necessitates an understanding of so many immigrant and first-generation experiences including the model minority conundrum, the complex relationship between Africans and African-Americans and immigrants in general, and the pressure to make the sacrifice of emigration “worth it” by attaining financial and professional success.

Likewise, Catherine E. McKinley’s memoir Indigo about her search for the fabric across West Africa, powerfully addresses the tension between the dollar-wielding tourist and the citizens she encounters. What does the visitor owe the strangers that show generous hospitality? What are the paternalistic implications of studying a people and their culture?

Because every work of literature can only offer a sliver of the global story through the prism of the author’s worldview, I would argue that no novel is, in and of itself, “global.” Rather, each work of literature exists within a community of works that collectively presents a global human story from multiple perspectives.  But the current discourse is too provincial for that.

Listen to Excerpts of the Man Booker Shortlist on iTunes

Man Booker Prize Shortlist on iTunes_peoplewhowrite

Now, free audio readings of the Man Booker Prize shortlist are available on iTunes along with author interviews. The dramatic performances take pains (sometimes with painful accents) to express the authors’ respective voices, and the interviews do a great job of piquing interest in the books. If only Man Booker/iTunes had included “Buy” buttons for full audio versions of the books! (If there aren’t audio versions, there should be and they should have been timed with the release of this podcast.) Another missed opportunity.

Check out the Man Booker Prize podcasts here.