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"Take it or leave it" - Booker chair
07.09.11 | Charlotte Williams
Man Booker chair of judges Stella Rimington has defended this year's shortlist, saying "take it or leave it", in a speech at the party held to celebrate the list in London's Kensington Gardens last night.
Speaking to assembled publishers, agents and authors, Rimington said of the shortlist, announced yesterday morning (6th September): "Take it or leave it; like it or not, we're very proud of it".
Man Booker Prize for Fiction literary director Ion Trewin said: "It's an exceptional year. The publishers on this year's shortlist are not your
traditional list of literary publishers. It feels like a significant moment."
Meanwhile, the shortlist garnered a wealth of coverage in the national press. Alongside a news article on the surprise omission of previous winner Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child (Picador) from the shortlist, Independent literary editor Boyd Tonkin, wrote that the judging process "seems to have lost much of its focus", delivering "a curiously mixed bag of worthwhile novels".
He called the Man Booker an "eccentric annual ritual" and asked for "change", arguing that the prize risks losing its authority. He posited "more explicit judging criteria; permanent jury members; selection by judges rather than submission by publishers" as ways of saving its reputation.
The Times and the Guardian both picked up on the first-time appearance of a western-themed novel, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (Granta), on the shortlist. The Times also highlighted a comment from judge Chris Mullin who said: "What people said to me when it was announced I would be on the judging panel was, 'I hope you choose something readable this year'. That for me was such a big factor. They had to zip along."
In its analysis, the Guardian called Hollinghurst's omission the "biggest surprise yet", but said the novel's plot, about an aristocratic young poet in the early years of the 20th century, could "be seen as a minority interest".
In the Daily Mail, the coverage focused on Pigeon English author Stephen Kelman's inclusion and his history of living on a council estate. Kelman is quoted as saying: "It's like I have gatecrashed the party. It's nice to see the new boys muscling in on the old guard."
Meanwhile, independent audiobook company W F Howes is gearing up to meet demand after finding it has four of the six titles on the shortlist for this year's prize—Half Blood Blues; Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch; The Sisters Brothers; and Snowdrops by A D Miller. Publisher Dominic White said: "We are gearing up for audio sales to significantly increase as a result of the shortlist announcement. These are exceptional books and the audio format has become an important alternative for readers."