Two Irish writers on Booker longlist
ALTHOUGH SERIOUSLY diminished by the surprise absence of Jon McGregor’s remarkable, politically charged third novel Even the Dogs, this year’s Man Booker longlist, which includes Dublin writer Paul Murray’s lively comic saga Skippy Dies, is very much alive.
The selection from which the final six contenders will emerge next month features two Dublin writers. Within a day of Dublin becoming a Unesco City of Literature, Murray, along with Emma Donoghue, longlisted for Room, a powerful exploration of the bond between a mother and child, are both strong contenders in a selection that suggests critical intelligence, not hype, exerted a greater influence than usual.
Despite immense publicity and the topicality of its climate change theme, Ian McEwan’s Solar was not selected.
Australian Peter Carey, the second man to become a double Booker winner, has been longlisted for Parrot and Olivier in America, a likeable historical romp based loosely on the life of French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville.
Far more impressive is the inclusion of Cork-based David Mitchell’s best work to date, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, in which Mitchell yet again draws on his fascination with Japan as reflected through the adventures of a sailor.
Most exciting is the presence of South African Damon Galgut with In a Strange Room, a beautiful study of one man’s loneliness. One of the most daring nominees is a debut novel, C, by British artist and writer Tom McCarthy, a telling novel of the future.
Adding to the disappointment of McGregor being overlooked is the omission of Joseph O’Connor’s Ghost Light, while the talented young English storyteller Joseph Smith, who had followed his wonderful debut The Wolfwith another masterwork, Taurus, was also passed over.
Scot Alan Warner is included for his explicit account of a group of young women attempting to go on a girls’ only vacation, The Stars in the Bright Sky.Insightful reading by the judges gave a deserved place to Canadian Lisa Moore’s February, a novel in which Helen, an Everywoman, explains what it is like to live with grief, her husband having died in an oil rig disaster.
Far less famous than Peter Carey is Melbourne-based Christos Tsiolkas, whose daring narrative The Slaplooks at modern society’s ambivalent attitude to right and wrong. When a man hits a child not his own in public there is a huge price to pay.
Rose Tremain, one of Britain’s most respected novelists, is represented by Trespass, a daring tale set in France, in which all the bitterness of lost chances run riot. She is joined by two of her peers, Helen Dunmore for The Betrayaland Howard Jacobson, who looks at the lives of two older men in The Finkler Question, a story which provides Jacobson with several chances to make the most of his Jewish humour.
Australian Alex Miller should have made at least the longlist with Lovesong, but this Man Booker could well belong to David Mitchell who will have to stave off the popular appeal of Skippy Diesand the moral weight brought by Tsiolkas and Donoghue.
THE BOOKER LONGLIST HEAVY HITTERS AND DEBUTANTS
Parrot and Olivier in America
(Faber and Faber)
(Pan MacMillan – Picador)
(Penguin – Fig Tree)
In a Strange Room
(Grove Atlantic - Atlantic Books)
The Finkler Question
The Long Song
(Headline Publishing Group – Headline Review)
(Random House - Jonathan Cape)
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
(Hodder Stoughton – Sceptre)
(Random House – Chatto & Windus)
(Penguin – Hamish Hamilton)
(Random House – Chatto Windus)
(Grove Atlantic – Tuskar Rock)
The Stars in the Bright Sky
(Random House – Jonathan Cape)
The winner will be announced on October 12th