Thursday, August 26, 2004

2004 Booker Longlist Announced

Well, the Booker Longlist has been announced.

2004 has been characterised by an almost complete lack of big names and previous winners, which is completely reflected by the list:

Chimamanda Ngozi - Purple Hibiscus
Nadeem Aslam - Maps for Lost Lovers
Nicola Barker - Clear: A Transparent Novel
John Bemrose - The Island Walkers
Ronan Bennett - Havoc, In Its Third Year
Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Neil Cross - Always The Sun
Achmat Dangor - Bitter Fruit
Louise Dean - Becoming Strangers
Lewis Desoto - A Blade of Grass
Sarah Hall - The Electric Michelangelo
James Hamilton-Paterson - Cooking with Fernet Branca
Justin Haythe - The Honeymoon
Shirley Hazzard - The Great Fire
Alan Hollinghurst - The Line of Beauty
Gail Jones - Sixty Lights
David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas
Sam North - The Unnumbered
Nicholas Shakespeare - Snowleg
Matt Thorne - Cherry
Colm Toibin - The Master
Gerard Woodward - I'll Go To Bed at Noon

Now, the Longlist doesn't exactly mean much (the Shortlist is the important one, after all), but the above one seems pretty good to me - there's a good range. Of course, there are several books and names I've never even come across before - which is nice to see. The only one that jumps out at me as a surprise is "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" by Susanna Clarke, which is receiving some pretty considerable pre-publication hype. An 800+ page fantasy novel, it's a story of two leading magicians in the 19th century, and I'm rather surprised that I want to read it quite as much as I do. If it went on to win (very unlikely, (I would bet on The Line of Beauty at this stage), which is a shame) it would certainly be very significant indeed.

* For an illustration of how much Clarke's book is being hyped-up, go here. Given that the book can only have been on sale for about three days, and that it will be shipped from Japan (this is dubious), and that it will be available in about a month anyway, £122.00 is a pretty impressive price. Not even Stephen King ARCs get much more than a hundred, in my experience (which, we all must admit, is limited).