Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate has reignited the debate about the recent eligibility rule changes for the Man Booker Prize, saying that making US authors eligible for the Man Booker - which unlike some critics of the move he had been "excited" about when it was first mooted - has turned out to be "disastrous" for the health of the prize.
In an opinion piece about the newly announced Man Booker longlist titled "What's gone wrong with the Man Booker?", Holgate wrote: "Though last year's list, the second for which Americans were eligible, still felt eclectic, this year's list feels too top-heavy with US writers - and not ones necessarily to inspire any sort of excitement. There is barely a Commonwealth presence on the list, and whole areas of fiction writing from abroad that were so much a part of the literary debate and profile in this country have been shouldered aside. The identity of British and Commonwealth writing seems to have been shouldered aside along with it. And this pattern, I suspect will continue into the future."
There are five US writers on this year's 13-strong longlist - Paul Beatty, David Means, Ottessa Moshfegh, Virginia Reeves and Elizabeth Strout - and six British writers, if you include David Szalay who also flies the flag for Canada where he was born.
Holgate claimed this year's longlist had been greeted with "more indifference and resigned shrugging of the shoulders than I can ever remember", rather than the "fevered debate" of years past. "There is...a feeling that the prize is talking to a smaller and smaller potential readership interested in more and more marginal notions of what a satisfying literary novel is. The reading public are being bored out of love with the Booker," he said, giving as an example the omission of Francis Spufford's Golden Hill (Faber) from this year's longlist.
"Spufford's book is brilliantly written. It is exceptional in a number of ways. But I suspect very much that it was considered just too fun to be taken seriously, or too cod 18th-century. All I can say is that 2016 must be a vintage year indeed for fiction for Spufford to not even make the longlist of 13," Holgate said.
Booksellers have hailed the longlist with enthusiasm, and said it is "the most open for years".
Small independents Salt, Saraband and Oneworld have seen a surge in demand for titles included on this year's "Man Booker Dozen."
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