This year’s Booker contenders

The longlist for the Booker prize has been announced. Sarah Crown reports:

Already being hailed as one of the strongest lists in years, the roll call is seriously heavyweight heavy and includes four previous winners — Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro and 2003 Nobel prize winner JM Coetzee, who’s actually picked up the Booker gong twice before. Some very strong women, too: Zadie Smith, Ali Smith and Hilary Mantel all made the cut (both Zadie Smith and Salman Rushdie are on the list for novels that haven’t been published yet: Smith’s On Beauty and Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown are both due out in early September).

Others on the list include Julian Barnes, John Banville, and Marina Lewycka.

I have to say, I’m mystified by the praise McEwan’s Saturday has garnered. The book was boring me to fucking tears when I started reading it several months ago. I nearly abandoned it when I got to the part where the protagonist was congratulating himself for being confident enough in his masculinity to pee sitting down, but I pressed on until I reached the famed squash game scene, which a friend identified as the high point of the book, and which left me cold. I stopped reading there. (Based on what I did read, though, I’m inclined to think Keith Gessen gets it exactly right. And if you didn’t read Banville’s withering take, please do so now. Here’s James Wood’s far more generous perspective.)

Other quick thoughts: Despite the disappointment of The Autograph Man, I’m dying to read Zadie Smith’s latest. I started the new Coetzee a few weeks ago, but had to put it aside for something else, and can’t offer any opinion yet. The new Mantel is on my reading list, as are the new Barnes and Banville (the latter of which I understand to be a sort of homage to one of my favorite novels, Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea).


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