2004 Man Booker Prize Shortlist Possibles

As in previous years I'm setting up a list of novels that might be considered for the Booker Long/Short lists.

One of the areas of a book's eligibility that I have difficulty with relates to the nationality of the author. The rules state that an author is only eligible if they are a citizen of the UK, the Commonwealth, Eire, Pakistan or South Africa, which sounds pretty reasonable on the face of it. But how can you tell what an author's nationality is? Is Shirley Hazzard eligible? And what about authors with dual-citizenship? The Literary Saloon at the complete review tackled this issue in March, specifically mentioning Caryl Phillips and Carol Shields as two authors who seem to have had a foot in both US and UK book-prize camps.

I mistook a non-fiction book for a novel last year, a first for me in this regard, which might well say something about the changing face of non-fiction, though I'm not sure what. I also didn't list the eventual winner. I had it on one of my reading lists (not included here), bought it cheap somewhere in town and didn't think much of it - hence its absence. (I still think the best book of the year - by Mark Haddon - should have at least made the shortlist, but it did win some other major awards and is sure to be read more widely than Pierre's novel.)

They're about the only reasons why a well-received book will be left off this list. If a favourite of yours isn't here it most probably means that the reviews I've read of it aren't that inspiring, or, more likely, I just haven't heard of it. In which case feel free to contact me and let me know. I certainly welcome, and acknowledge, additions to this list.

My thanks to Sarah Weinman who alerted me, via her blog, to the Eoin McNamee book with a recommendation that ends: "The story haunted, the characters were almost incandescent, the prose never pedestrian and at times jaw-droppingly stunning. There are books, you see, and then there are BOOKS. This is such." Sounds good enough for me.

The Literary Saloon at the complete review weblog listed the upcoming publication of Howard Jacobson's new novel "The Making of Henry". Jacobson was longlisted for "Who's Sorry Now?" in 2002, and while this fact doesn't automatically enter him for the prize (unlike shortlisted authors) it does put him in the frame as a "possible".

One of the judges for this year's Booker, Tibor Fischer, has written an amusing piece in the Daily Telegraph which gives some idea on how hard the whole process has become, as well as providing some pointers for publishers on how to get long-listed.
- August 20, 2004.