The Man Booker shortlist: Americans, be patient
If the Man Booker Prize judges were trying to send a message to American readers with the short list for this year's prize, announced Tuesday, it may have sounded something like "be patient." One third of the six shortlisted books are not regularly available in the U.S.; another two are just getting to shelves this month.
The Man Booker Prize shortlist is:
"Parrot and Olivier in America" by Peter Carey
"Room" by Emma Donoghue
"In a Strange Room" by Damon Galgut
"The Finkler Question" by Howard Jacobson
"The Long Song" by Andrea Levy"C" by Tom McCarthy
The clear leader in the pack is Peter Carey, nominated for "Parrot and Olivier in America," out in both hardcover and paperback. Carey has won the prize twice before -- for "Oscar and Lucinda" in 1988 and "True History of the Kelly Gang" in 2001 -- and is only one of two authors to have done so. If he wins the Man Booker this year, he'll be the only author with three of the prizes.
Interestingly, Carey's novel, which is up for this very Commonwealth-centric prize, is about Alexis de Toqueville and his early explorations of America.
It's quite a different book from Tom McCarthy's "C," which bears comparisons to Thomas Pynchon; "C" is officially released in the U.S. today. Emma Donoghue's "Room," the story of a boy living in captivity, is out next week. Both books are being released in hardcover -- although the American covers look different than the U.K. covers pictured above.
Howard Jacobson's "The Finkler Question" is not yet available in the states as a printed book, but Kindle owners have been able to download it since early August. This points to one of the dawning benefits of e-books -- they can have a shorter production schedule, and get into readers' hands more quickly. (As long as those hands are holding the right e-reader, that is.) Although other Howard Jacobson novels can be found in the Sony e-book store, "The Finkler Question" isn't yet available for the Sony Reader.
"The Long Song" by Andrea Levy, a tale of Jamaican slavery told with lighthearted wit, has been available since April, when it was published by Farrar Straus and Giroux. Europa Editions picked up Damon Galgut's "In a Strange Room," which won't appear on U.S. shelves until next fall.
Two notable books that have been available here that were on the longlist -- "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" by David Mitchell and "The Slap" by Christos Tsiolkas -- didn't make the shortlist cut. This year's judging panel, photographed above, is (from left) Rosie Blau, literary editor of the Financial Times; Frances Wilson, writer; Chair Andrew Motion, professor of creative writing at Royal Holloway College; Deborah Bull, creative director of the Royal Opera House; and author and journalist Tom Sutcliffe.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: The Man Booker Prize judges holding the six shortlisted books during Tuesday's announcement. Credit: Akira Suemori / Associated Press