The Booker Prize shortlist has been announced with the usual mix of criticism and praise from various quarters. Indeed, the controversy over each year's list is as much a tradition as the Prize itself. For example, Ron Sharp, arts correspondent for The Independent criticized the omission of Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child from the shortlist; while Boyd Tonkin, literary editor for the Independent opines that:
"the process seems to have lost much of its focus. It now delivers a curiously mixed bag of worthwhile novels. So what? No longer does the Man Booker seem to want to test the year's output against the highest standards of literary ambition and artistry...many accomplished authors who failed to make the long-list will be wondering what the Booker is precisely for these days."
He goes on to suggest that the Prize needs "more explicit judging criteria; permanent jury members; and selection by judges rather than submission by publishers."
Tonkin's last point is worthy of a moment of reflection. One of the little known facts about a number of awards is that the original nominations are made by the publishers (for example, for a $50 fee a publisher can nominate a work for a Pulitzer). This is not to say that the nominated books are not worthy, just that the net is spread very wide in the first round which, on balance, is probably a good thing as without the ability for publishers to nominate titles, it's unlikely that we'd see a shortlist such as the one below with four of the six titles from small, independent publishers; and two first novels.
At the end of the day, it's the nature of awards that you can't please everyone. As author and judge Susan Hill says, "For goodness sake, don't think these are the only books to read this year. There were 138 books submitted. It's our own judgement."
Click to browse each book:
Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending. Published in the UK by Jonathan Cape, Random House. Initially scheduled to publish in the USA in late Jan 2012 in hardcover and ebook from Knopf, but now moved up to Oct 2011.
Carol Birch Jamrach's Menagerie. Published in the UK by Canongate Books, and in the USA by Doubleday.
Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers. Published in the UK by Granta and in the USA by Ecco.
Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues. Published in the UK by Serpent's Tail; no USA publishing plans known.
Stephen Kelman Pigeon English. Published in the UK by Bloomsbury and in the USA by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
A.D. Miller Snowdrops. Published in the UK by Atlantic and in the USA by Doubleday.
The winner will be announced on 18 October.
Which book would you like to see win?