Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Man Booker 2013: this longlist is an incitement to read
This Man Booker 2013 longlist is dominated by epic tales that criss-cross
the globe, says Sameer Rahim.
The novelist NoViolet Bulawayo,
one of the 13 authors nominated for the Man Booker 2013 prizePhoto: James
When the Man Booker Prize longlist is announced, the judges are advised to
don their flak jackets. Choosing 13 books from 151 means plenty of disappointed
authors and carping critics. The arguments are part of the fun: all you can ask
from the judges – especially at the longlist stage – is for books that are
stimulating, well-written and an incitement to read.
On these terms the 2013 list succeeds amply. Some will regret the absence of
former winners such as Margaret Atwood (for MaddAdam) or JM Coetzee (The Childhood of
Jesus); a couple, such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and David Peace,
whose epic novel about Bill Shankly Red or Dead is reviewed this Saturday
in the Telegraph, will likewise be missed by their advocates. But there are
plenty of familiar names to discount accusations of felling tall poppies – and
some less well-known ones worth picking up.
Globalisation and our connected world is a running theme. Tash Aw’s Five Star
Billionaire follows a group of Malaysian immigrants – but rather
than travelling to America, as they might have done in the past, they go to the
mega-city of Shanghai. In NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New
Names, characters in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe dream of leaving the
country, while Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic describes the Irish émigré
experience across two centuries. Similarly epic is Jhumpa Lahiri’s The
Lowland, which tells the story of two brothers from Calcutta in
post-war India, taking in Vietnam and the Naxalite rebellions. The New Yorker
has published an extract.
Robert Macfarlane, the chair of the judges, told me that these books feel
like they’re “pushing their own boundaries and squaring up to the present day,”
encompassing “money, global finance and environmental disaster.” Twenty
seven-year-old Eleanor Catton, whose experimental first novel The
Rehearsal split the critics, returns with The
Luminaries, an 800-page book about a 19th-century gold prospector in
New Zealand. The environmental theme is taken up in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time
Being, about a suicidal Japanese girl caught up in a tsunami.