You are here

Weekly Roundup: Reactions to the shortlist

Weekly Roundup: Reactions to the shortlist

In announcing the Man Booker Prize 2013 shortlist at a party held at the Serpentine Gallery in London on Tuesday, the chair of judges, Robert Macfarlane, pointed out that the judges had read 151 novels. Were the books piled on top of one another, he said, they would make a pile some 30 feet high. Macfarlane, a renowned walker and no stranger to rope and crampons, pointed out: “I've climbed a few mountains in my time, and this took some reading.”

A brilliant – if bizarre – exercise has been carried out by Nick Sidwell of the Guardian: he has plotted the main location featured in every Man Booker shortlisted book since 1969. Among the odd facts the mapping uncovered are that Northern Ireland is the only one of the home nations that hasn't provided the setting for a winner; 18 books (seven winners) have been set in India; three books (one winner) have been set at sea – the exact same number as for Wales; and of the 69 books set in the Midlands and south of England, 10 went on to win the prize while of the 12 set in the north of England, four proved winners. Make of that what you will – if you can make anything of it that is.

A striking feature of the coverage surrounding the shortlist announcement has been the way different countries or other groupings have reported the news and appropriated the selected writers. The Toronto Star, for example, proudly pointed out that Ruth Ozeki is a British Columbian and promptly claimed Eleanor Catton as a Canadian (she was born in Ontario but is really a New Zealander). The Vancouver Desi, “Canada's premier south Asian news site”, did something of the same with Jhumpa Lahiri who is neither Canadian or South Asian – she was born in London. The Scotsman headlined its piece by semi-claiming Ruth Ozeki for Scotland because her publishers, Canongate, are based in Edinburgh. The Tánaiste – Ireland's deputy prime minister – lauded Colm Tóibín's selection (“‘an achievement that will serve as an inspiration to Irish people everywhere”). The Jewish Chronicle meanwhile noted plaintively that “their” novelists, Charlotte Mendelson and Eve Harris, hadn't made the cut.

The Booker Prize Foundation, the prize's charitable arm, has done its bit to mark the announcement of this year's shortlist. It has helped to fast-track the production of the chosen six titles for blind and partially sighted readers. The RNIB says that it usually takes up to four months to produce a braille or talking book edition but the Foundation's help means that the whole shortlist will be available to visually impaired readers before the announcement of the winner on October 15th

Congratulations to Linghams Booksellers in Heswall on the Wirral. Some extraordinarily prescient member of staff there managed to guess the entire shortlist and was so confident they posted it on the shop's Facebook page the day before the announcement was made. Time for them to buy a lottery ticket while they're on a winning streak.