Retailers have praised the 2015 Man Booker Prize longlist as “excellent” and containing a “rather lovely mix” of publishers. However literary agent David Godwin has said the dominance of US writers on the list means people's “worst fears have come to pass”.
The longlist was announced yesterday (29th), and features established writers alongside debut authors.
Three UK writers are longlisted: Tom McCarthy for Satin Island (Jonathan Cape), Andrew O’Hagan for The Illuminations (Faber & Faber), and Sunjeev Sahota for The Year of the Runaways (Picador). From the US are Bill Clegg for his debut Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape), Laila Lalami for The Moor's Account (Periscope), Hanya Yanagihara for A Little Life (Picador), Marilynne Robinson for Lila (Virago), and Anne Tyler makes the list for A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus).
The first Laureate for Irish Fiction Anne Enright is longlisted for The Green Road (Jonathan Cape). Marlon James is longlisted for A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications), Nigeria’s Chigozie Obioma for his debut The Fishermen (One, Pushkin Press), India’s Anuradha Roy for Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus), and New Zealand’s Anna Smaill for her debut The Chimes (Sceptre).
Chris White, fiction buyer at Waterstones, said: “I think it’s a fantastic selection. I’d have been hugely despondent if The Green Road or The Illuminations hadn’t been on there so it’s good to see justice being done for two terrific books. Looking at the publishers it’s a really rather lovely mix of established literary heavyweights and plucky, exciting independents. I’m now off to Ladbrokes to put a fiver on A Little Life.”
Jonathan Ruppin, web editor for Foyles, said: “There's no clear favourite, although A Little Life has been the book that seemed to have drawn the most consistent praise from advance readers. I'd cautiously tip Anne Enright.
He added: “It's a fair reflection of a year that has seen a lot of excellent fiction, but very little that's truly outstanding and destined to be read for decades to come. It's pleasing to see that the judges have rewarded innovation and originality, even if the ambitions of some writers haven't been flawlessly realised. I suspect the judges already have a good idea of their likely shortlist, with the real contenders emerging fairly easily as they reread. The decision to open up the prize beyond the Commonwealth seemed validated, as it's a list that reflects global reach and interaction of Anglophone writers.
“I had expected a better showing for independent publishers, who are leading the way in promoting the continued evolution of the novel as an artform.”
Sheila O’Reilly of Dulwich Books said it was an “an excellent longlist” with “books that will appeal to a variety of book buyers”. “The list contains a number of strong titles, contrary to some expectations," she said. "I am particularly pleased to see the likes of Anne Tyler and Andrew O'Hagan on it and I think it is fantastic that those that might be called 'small presses' are represented such as Oneworld, Pushkin Press and Periscope Books. Lots to think about as well, all good for the industry.”
Sheryl Shurville of Chorleywood Bookshop said: “It’s an amazingly diverse list with both new names and respected known authors, which reflects how international the prize has become. Proof that changing the rules brings new life to this prestigious prize.”
However literary agent David Godwin told the Telegraph that the dominance of American writers on this year’s longlist – there are five – mean that people’s “worst fears have come to pass”.
“The Booker prize was established to celebrate British and Commonwealth writers but they are the real casualties here,” he said. “They have been overwhelmed. Its nature has changed dramatically and the consequences are really tragic. There was absolutely no need to change the rules. None of the major American prizes are open to Brits. It’s a very sad state of affairs.”
The Guardian commented on the absence of “big names” on the list, including Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Franzen, and Margaret Atwood.
There are three books on the longlist that have not yet been released. Picador said the release date for A Little Life would remain 13th August, although a spokeswoman told The Bookseller “we’ll be releasing books a little earlier to bookshops”. Lalami’s The Moor’s Account is released on 27th August, while Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family is released on 17th September, two days after the announcement of this year’s shortlist.
Simon Key of Big Green Bookshop commented: “We can’t display the longlist in shops, so what’s the point of announcing it if you can’t display the books? There is nothing anyone can do about it? I can’t read the books, the public can’t read the books.”
For the 2014 prize, the Man Booker rules stated that each publisher of a longlisted title should make no fewer than 1,000 copies of that title available within 10 days of the announcement of the long list. But the rules were relaxed earlier this year to say that if a book is published in print before the longlist is announced, an e-book must be made available within 10 days of the announcement.
If publication comes after the longlist announcement, the publisher "must make the novel available for sale as an e-book", but without a time frame being specified. If a book is already available as an e-book before the announcement, 1,000 copies must then be made available in print 10 days after the announcement. The prize rules go on to say: "If it is published after the announcement of the longlist, then on publication there must be the minimum of 1,000 print copies available for retail sale."