The official 2010 Booker shortlist (alphabetically by author — click on title to link to my original review):
Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey
Room, by Emma Donoghue
In A Strange Room, by Damon Galgut
The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson
The Long Song, by Andrea Levy
C, by Tom McCarthy
Since the jury agreed with my top three choices, I can hardly complain. On the other hand, my last two choices — Room and The Finkler Question — also made the list, although I did correctly predict that Room would be there. So I guess it could be said that 2010 was the year that KfC “bookended the Booker” shortlist.
Surprises for me on the shortlist:
1. All three longlist novels that I would call “literary” — Galgut, McCarthy, Jacobson — made the list. Except for Donoghue, none of the “story” novels did (Warner, Murray, Tsiolkas, Dunmore, Tremain, Moore). Given that more than half the longlist were “story” novels, it surprised me that only one advanced when all three literary titles did. One can only conclude that the jury has a stronger “literary” tilt than the longlist suggested.
2. Historical novels always show up on the Booker shortlist and I expected two to be there. Like just about everyone else, however, I expected David Mitchell to be one of them. I suspect this jury really doesn’t like media-hyped authors — they didn’t even let Ian McEwan and Martin Amis on the longlist and now have dropped Mitchell at the shortlist stage.
3. Obviously, the inclusion of Jacobson (whose novel I called “dreadful” after abandoning it 200 pages in) was a surprise to me. I’ve promised to give it another try and after a few days of ridding myself of negative thoughts I will. If the reread is better, I promise a review — if my opinion remains negative, I’ll just update the other one. There is no way I am going to rubbish a book twice.
The Prize won’t be announced until Oct. 12 which means five more weeks of speculation, but I’ll start it up with some initial predictions (which I reserve the right to change). I suspect the literary tilt of the shortlist will be repeated in the final choice — and that that will be Damon Galgut’s In A Small Room (there — I have definitely doomed it to failure). The McCarthy, while ambitious, simply has too many weaknesses, the Jacobson’s second half (even from most who like it) too boring.
The presence of Room, however, indicates at least one juror (and probably more) has much different tastes, which may lead to a compromise — and a historical novel as Booker winner is always acceptable. I think Carey’s book is just too weak (besides, its about America and Booker juries don’t seem to like that) so would not be surprised to see The Long Song emerge (there, I’ve damned it too). Other theories are, of course, welcome in comments. The Booker reading may be almost done, but the real debate has just started.
2010 SHADOW GILLER PRIZE JURY PLANS
With my Booker reading virtually complete, the blog will be turning its attention to Canadian fiction and the 17th annual Scotiabank Giller Prize, the country’s leading literary competition. I am pleased to announce that this will also be the 16th year for the Shadow Giller Jury, whose unofficial home will be both this blog and Trevor Berrett at the Mookse and the Gripes
A short bit of Shadow Giller history. The first Shadow jury came together throught pure happenstance — I was publisher of the Calgary Herald at the time (1995) and ran into our book editor (now an author) Ken McGoogan and Calgary author Robert Hilles in the newsroom the day before the second winner of the Giller Prize was to be announced. We chatted about the “new” prize and discovered that each of us had recently spent time with one of that year’s three Giller judges — Mordecai Richler, Jane Urquhart and David Staines. So we had a 15-minute judging session and named Rohinton Mistry as winner of the first Shadow Giller prize for A Fine Balance (which is still my favorite book), a decision echoed by the Real Jury the next day.
We’ve missed a few years, but there has been a Shadow Giller jury just about every year since and Giller founder and financer Jack Rabinovitch, who set the prize up in honor of his late wife, Doris, has recognized our efforts in a few of his speeches at the annual banquet. Knowing the controversy that follows post-Booker announcements, the Shadow Jury has always committed itself to announcing its decision before the Real Jury makes theirs — if you want to earn the right to criticize, you have to put your own opinion forward first. We will be doing that again this year.
While the Giller is restricted to Canadian authors, the jury is not — this year’s Real jury will be chaired by Canadian journalist Michael Enright but his colleagues will be British novelist and critic Ali Smith and U.S. novelist Claire Messud. This year’s Shadow Jury will be the same as last year’s — I will be joined by Alison Gzowski, former producer of CBC Radio’s Talking Books, and Trevor Berrett, New Jersey-based blogger from the Mookse and the Gripes.
While I will be reviewing as many Canadian novels as possible in advance of the longlist announcement on Sept. 20, the Shadow Jury will not be attempting to predict a longllist — the Giller has a tradition of recognizing books from small publishing houses and it just isn’t possible to do a fair sampling in advance of the longlist announcement. With the shortlist announcement on Oct. 5, we also cannot commit to all of us reading the entire longlist — there simply is not enough time, althougIwe will offer thoughts on worthy books for the shortlist. We will try to ensure that at least one of us gets around to each book on the longlist before Oct. 5 and I will do my best to eventually review every longlisted book on this site. I am also trying to design a contest that (if I can figure one out) will be announced here at the same time as the shortlist. I am negotiating with the Official Shadow Giller sponsor (Mrs. KfC who has paid for the Shadow jury gala lunch for several years) to extend her support of the prize to include the contest.
All three of us will read all of the shortlist — Trevor and I will supply complete reviews on our blogs and Alison (who doesn’t blog) will be commenting. In the long-established tradition of the Shadow Giller Jury, we will be announcing our winner on Friday, Nov. 5 — four days in advance of the official Giller Prize announcement on Nov. 9. Please join us in the experience and don’t hesitate to offer your opinions in comments.