July 28th, 2014 By: Nora Rawlinson
The first Man Booker longlist to include American authors has been released. Of the 13 novels, 4 are by Americans. As The Economist wryly observes, the list “has divided headline writers into those who prefer ‘Commonwealth writers edged out’ and those who have chosen ‘Donna Tartt snubbed’.”
But the Guardian gets to one of the most pressing issues, exploring, “Why The Longlist Has Bewildered The Bookies,“ while taking a familiar swipe at American writers (similar to the Nobel Awards jurist’s claim that Americans are “too insular” to be able to win that prize), by saying, “American novelists tend to write about the US, and none of the four – Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Siri Hustvedt, Richard Powers – set their selected books abroad. So … there’s a marked sense of restricted horizons …”
The Economist, on the other hand, picks American Richard Powers’ Orfeo as one of the two most interesting books on the list. The other is The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Australian Richard Flanagan.
It happens that just before this announcement, we heard Seattle Public Library’s David Wright describe his excitement about that book, calling the author, “a consummate stylist, but with a style that is in service to the realities he’s writing about, which are often deeply painful and tragic. That is certainly true in The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which depicts with a fair amount of detail the horrific experience of POWs in WWII (Flanagan’s father was a survivor of the Thai-Burma death railway) … He is so skillful in showing how these events affect mens’ lives … his writing is devastating, generous, and deeply caring.”
Flanagan is also modest. He tells the Guardian that he was “stunned” to learn he was on the list.
The author who may be the most surprised to make the list is Paul Kingsnorth. Not only is The Wake his first novel, he had so much trouble getting it published, that he finally turned to crowd-funding it via the U.K. website Unbound. The author describes the novel as “a strange and left-field book,” written in its own language, a version of Anglo-Saxon English.
A taste of it below:
The longlist, with American publishing information, below:
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris (Hachette/Little,Brown, 5/13/14)
The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt (S&S; 3/11/14; Thorndike)
The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound) — published via the crowd-funded site Unbound; available as an ebook on Axis 360
Orfeo, Richard Powers (Norton, 1/20/14; Thorndike; Recorded Books)
History of the Rain, Niall Williams (Macmillan/Bloomsbury, 5/6/14)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan (RH/Knopf. 8/12/14)
J, Howard Jacobson, (RH/Crown/Hogarth (3/10/15)
The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (Random House, 9/2/14; Recorded Books)
Us, David Nicholls (Harper, 10/8/14; HarperAudio)
The Dog, Joseph O’Neill (RH/)Pantheon, 10/9/14; RH Audio)
Not Yet Published in the U.S.:
The Lives of Others, Neel Mukherjee (Chatto & Windus)
How to be Both, Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)