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The 13 books on the Man Booker longlist 2014

Published on Jul 24, 2014 10:30 AM
 

For the first time this year, the Man Booker Prize contenders include American authors. The prize was previously open only to British and Commonwealth writers. The four Americans on the list this year are Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Siri Hustvedt and Richard Powers.

The shortlist of six titles will be announced on Sept 9. And the winner will be announced at a blacktie dinner at London's Guildhall on Oct 14. The prize comes with a cash award of £50,000 (S$106,000) but traditionally the windfall for the winner comes from the enormous sales boost after the announcement.

The Man Booker Prize, introduced in 1969, is one of the highest profile and most coveted awards for English writing.

This year's judging panel is chaired by philosopher/writer A. C. Grayling and includes UEA's Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding Sarah Churchwell, director of Science Gallery London at King's College Dr Daniel Glaser, Oxford University Professor of English Literature Jonathan Bate, Dr Alastair Niven and author/journalist Erica Wagner.

The Man Booker longlist 2014

To Rise Again At A Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris (Viking)

American author Joshua Ferris' 2007 debut, Then We Came To The End, won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. The book took him 14 weeks to write and earned him a six-figure advance after a nine-way fight between publishers.

The New York-based 39-year-old was also picked by The New Yorker for its 20 Under 40 fiction writers to watch.
This is his third novel, centering on a rich Park Avenue dentist in search of happiness. His middle class life gets upended when someone, who is a religious nutjob, starts impersonating him on social media.

The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Richard Flanagan (Chatto & Windus)

The only Australian on the longlist, the 44-year-old is a celebrated veteran writer who has published both fiction and non-fiction works.

He also wrote and directed the 1998 film, The Sound Of One Hand Clapping, based on his novel about an immigrant Slovenian family's experiences in Australia. It was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Flanagan also helped director Baz Luhrmann with the script for the Nicole Kidman-Hugh Jackman film Australia (2008).

His longlisted novel takes its title from the famous haiku by Basho and tells the story of a doctor who, while trapped in a Japanese POW camp on the infamous Thailand-Burma death railway, remembers his love affair with his uncle's young wife.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent's Tail)

Karen Joy Fowler, 64, is one of the headliners for this year's Singapore Writers Festival. She co-founded the noted James Tiptree Jr Award with writer Pat Murphy which is awarded to books that explore gender and gender roles.

She has published three collections of short stories and six novels, including The Jane Austen Book Club (2004) which was made into a movie starring Maria Bello, Emily Blunt and Jimmy Smits.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves has already won the PEN/Faulkner Award. The family drama focuses on Rosemary, a talkative child who has grown up into a withdrawn college student. The mystery of her brother and sister, who have disappeared, are at the core of this intricate tale.

The Blazing World, Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre) 

American poet, novelist and essayist Siri Hustvedt has a PhD in English from Columbia University. Despite her impressive credentials and publications, the 59-year-old has sometimes been overshadowed by her husband, novelist Paul Auster.

The Blazing World, which takes its title from a 1666 book by Duchess of Newcastle Margaret Cavendish which excoriated the sexism of The Royal Society, tells the story of Harriet Burden. An artist in her own right, she is married to a famous art dealer. She decides on an experiment - showing her work behind the names of three male identities.

J, Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape)

The 71-year-old author is known for his comic explorations of Jewish identity in Britain. He is often called the Philip Roth of Britain because of his penchant for creating fictional counterparts of himself in his novels.

He has already snagged one Man Booker Prize, for 2010's The Finkler Question, which follows the friendships of three male protagonists. At his acceptance speech, Jacobson joked that he was going to spend his prize money on a handbag for his wife.

J is a love story about two people for whom the past is a dark, unknown country, haunted by a catastrophe that no one talks about.

The Wake, Paul Kingsnorth (Unbound)

This is something of a fairytale ending for English writer Paul Kingsnorth's debut book. The environmental activist and journalist published The Wake thanks to a crowdfunding campaign by publisher Unbound and support from 400 contributors.

The 41-year-old's book was rejected by conventional publishers put off by the fact that it is written in Kingsnorth's take on Anglo-Saxon English. It tells the story of a man who, with his ragtag band of guerrillas, are fighting the Norman invasion of 1066.

The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (Sceptre)

English writer David Mitchell seems to be catching up with Booker bridesmaid Beryl Bainbridge who was nominated five times for the Booker Prize and was given a posthumous Booker award in 2011.

Mitchell has already been nominated twice (for number9dream in 2001 and Cloud Atlas in 2004) and longlisted twice (Black Swan Green in 2006 and The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob de Zoet in 2010).

The Ireland-based 45-year-old's latest book promises the sort of easy genre hopping which has won him much acclaim in past works. It follows the life of a female protagonist from her youth to old age and the roles she played in life influences greater events than she realises.

The Lives Of Others, Neel Mukherjee (Chatto & Windus)

Another young alumnus of the celebrated Creative Writing course at the University of East Anglia, Kolkata-born, London-based Neel Mukerjee's book tells the story of a large Indian family's unravelling, set against the political upheavals in 1960s India.

Us, David Nicholls (Hodder & Stoughton)

English writer David Nicholls, 47, is best known for his bestselling book, One Day (2009) which was turned into the 2011 film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess as an on-again-off again couple whose tale is told on one day July 15 over 20 years. But he also boasts a long list of screenwriting credits.

His latest book once again alights on relationship issues as it follows a disintegrating family on their last summer holiday together in Europe and protagonist Douglas struggles to win back his wife of 21 years and repair his relationship with his son who will soon be leaving for college.

The Dog, Joseph O'Neill (Fourth Estate)

Irish lawyer Joseph O'Neill also writes non-fiction. He has been longlisted once before, in 2008 for his novel Netherland which won the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

The New York-based 50-year-old's latest book tells the story of a New York attorney who accepts a job in Dubai working for a super-rich family.

Orfeo, Richard Powers(Atlantic Books)

This 57-year-old American writer was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the Genius award, and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006 for his book The Echo Maker.

His works explore the impact of science and technology on life and society, and Orfeo is no exception. His protagonist is a 70-year-old composer who goes on the run after his attempts at making music from DNA is misunderstood by the Homeland Security department as bioterrorism.

How To Be Both, Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)

Scottish writer Ali Smith has been shortlisted twice before for the Booker (Hotel World in 2001 and The Accidental in 2005). The 52-year-old's latest book is a structural tease that twines the tale of a renaissance artist from the 1460s with the story of the child of a child of the 1960s.

History Of The Rain, Niall Williams (Bloomsbury)

 

The second Irish writer on the longlist is the author of eight novels, three stage plays, four non-fiction works and several screenplays.

History Of The Rain tells the story of the daughter of a poet who is bedridden and reading her late father's extensive library in an effort to rediscover her parent.

You can read the first chapter of his book at www.niallwilliams.com.