There is no need to turn to the US for great writers, the publisher of one of the Folio Prize-shortlisted books has said.
The inaugural shortlist for the £40,000 award is dominated by North America, with five US writers and one Canadian on the line-up.
However British novelist Jane Gardam has also been nominated, for her novel Last Friends (Little, Brown), the third in the Old Filth trilogy. Meanwhile Irish writer Eimear McBride is also shortlisted for A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing (Galley Beggar Press).
Richard Beswick, publishing director at Little, Brown, [pictured] said the shortlist showed Gardam is “up there with the very best of British writers, and the very best American writers”.
He said: “She’s an absolutely wonderful writer who’s written consistently brilliant books for 40 years. It’s wonderful to have that recognised. I think there is a feeling amongst critics that people look towards America for great works. We have got people as good here, can we have them talked about now as well?
“We don’t need to rediscover a book like Stoner (Vintage Classics) when we have got people like Jane Gardam still alive and writing.”
McBride’s A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing (Galley Beggar Press) also won the first Goldsmiths Prize for experimental fiction in 2013.
Its publisher, Norwich-based Galley Beggar Press, said it could have gone bankrupt publishing the book, which took nine years to find a publisher. Elly Millar, co-director, said: “We publish two novels a year, we are tiny. Because we only publish two a year we really think carefully about what we want to publish.
“This time last year we all knew this book was fantastic, and a work of art. We could have gone bankrupt with it because we operate on a wing and a prayer.”
Galley Beggar Press was set up less than two years ago and describes itself as “a sponsor to writers who have struggled to either find or retain a publisher, and (most importantly) whose writing shows great ambition and literary merit”.
Millar said: “For us we are very proud of ourselves for wanting to take these books on. All of those we have published have struggled to find a home. It [having a book shortlisted] is incredible and amazing exposure.”
Also shortlisted books were The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Harvill Secker); Schroder by Amity Gaige (Faber & Faber); Benediction, the third book in the Plainsong trilogy by Kent Haruf (Picador); Anne Carson’s Red Doc (Jonathan Cape), a mix of poetry, drama and narrative; A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava (Maclehose Press); and short-story collection Tenth of December by PEN/Hemingway Award finalist George Saunders (Bloomsbury).
Anna Davis of Curtis Brown, which represents Saunders, said: “I think it’s a great shortlist – this is a shortlist which speaks very clearly of literary excellence – these are writers’ writers. There’s an extent to which the Costa is about readers and the Booker about story - the Folio is unashamedly about great writing, and it’s so important that we value this. We’re very proud that our client George Saunders features in this shortlist.”
Foyles web editor Jonathan Ruppin, said in a blog for The Bookseller that the shortlist was "a statement of intent", but added that he believed it would take several years to gain the standing of prizes such as the Man Booker and the Costas.
Chair of the judges Lavinia Greenlaw said at this morning's announcement: "We didn't set out with a template in mind and fill it with eight books. What we were attracted to was an artistic ambition in that it wasn't just clever and was full of sharp angles that created a dynamic read. These books are utterly unlike each other. It is about authors taking risks and doing things that should fail but pulling them off."
Saunders' Tenth of December has sold the most of the Folio shortlisted works through Nielsen BookScan, with a total of 4,097 sales recorded. Gardam's Last Friends has a total of 3,474; Kushner's The Flamethrowers, 2,800; Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, 1,844; and Sergio De La Paver's A Naked Singularity, 1,423. Sales for the Anne Carson, Amity Gaige and Kent Haruf works have yet to register on BookScan's top 5,000.