Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Booker Prize longlist: From an enchantress to exploding mangoes: judges draw up longlist
· Rushdie among favourites for novel that split critics · Carey, Kureishi, Lessing missing from final 13
Mark Brown, arts correspondent writing in The Guardian ,Wednesday July 30 2008

He is a winner of the Booker and the Booker of Bookers and now he is the bookie's favourite to be a double Booker after Salman Rushdie was yesterday named in the prize's longlist for The Enchantress of Florence.
Rushdie's venture into historical Medici meets Moghul romance has divided critics. The fantastical tale is either a thrilling return to form or is, according to David Gates in the New York Times, "so pious ... so pleased with itself and so besotted with the sound of its own voice", or, according to Peter Kemp in the Sunday Times, the worst novel Rushdie has written.

Ladbroke's yesterday installed Rushdie as 4-1 favourite to win the overall prize, something he last did in 1981 for Midnight's Children, the novel named the best of Booker winner last month.
Rushdie is up against 12 other novelists in a longlist which undoubtedly covers most bases in terms of experience and novelty as well as age and geography. There are first-time novelists, including Aravind Adiga and Tom Rob Smith, who is a stripling at 29 years old.
The oldest writer on the list is 81-year-old John Berger, who won the Booker 36 years ago.

Aside from the UK, there are writers from Ireland, Pakistan, India and Australia. Michael Portillo, chairman of the judges, admitted: "I would have been concerned if we hadn't produced a balanced list."
Bookman Beattie's astonishment at the omission of Tim Wilton seems to be a view widely shared, at least in this part of the world.
I liked the following remark from the Chair of the judging panel:
"Judging had been a "gruelling and pleasurable" experience.
"You're not reading for leisure or pleasure, you're reading because you have to. Put it this way, I would never do it again."

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