The Blagger's Guide To...The Man Booker Prize
The power to transform an author's fortunes
Sunday 16 October 2011
*The Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be awarded on Tuesday at a dinner at London's Guildhall which is the closest the book world ever comes to red carpet glamour.
The shortlist is: The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes; Jamrach's Menagerie, by Carol Birch; Snowdrops, by A D Miller; Half Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan; Pigeon English, by Stephen Kelman; and The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick de Witt.
*William Hill and Ladbrokes both have Julian Barnes as favourite to win, but the Man Booker is notoriously difficult to forecast. In 2008, the eminent critic John Sutherland had to renege on his prediction when Salman Rushdie's novel failed even to make the shortlist. "I vowed – publicly – to curry and eat my proof copy of The Enchantress of Florence if it didn't win," he confessed. "It won't. And I won't. So there."
*By September, 2011's was already the bestselling shortlist since records began, with the six titles selling a combined total of 37,500 copies. Do say: "The prize is the world's most important literary award and has the power to transform the fortunes of authors and publishers". Don't say: "Katie Price's latest novel sold more copies than that in the first half an hour."
*The winner of the Man Booker Prize receives £50,000, in addition to a steep increase in sales and a shiny glass plaque. This is nothing compared to other literary prizes, however. The Nobel Prize for Literature, for example, comes with an award of 10 million Swedish kronor – about £950,000.
*The prize has been sponsored since 2002 by the Man Group. It's a company that has expertise in a wide range of "liquid investment styles", apparently, including managed futures, equity, credit and convertibles, emerging markets, global macro and multi-manager. So it must be nice for them to relax with a good book.
*Last week, a rival to the prize was announced – The Literature Prize. It is supported by many prestigious authors including Pat Barker, John Banville, David Mitchell, Mark Haddon and Jackie Kay. The new prize is "not about attacking the Booker or any books on the shortlist," said its launch statement, which went on to add: "The prize will offer readers a selection of novels that, in the view of these expert judges, are unsurpassed in their quality and ambition. For many years this brief was fulfilled by the Booker (latterly the Man Booker) Prize. But as numerous statements by that prize's administrator and this year's judges illustrate, it now prioritises a notion of 'readability' over artistic achievement." The Man Booker's well-liked administrator, Ion Trewin, responded: "Tosh."
*Each year at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, a panel of judges chooses a Booker shortlist and winner from a year before the prize existed. Last year's winner, for 1960, was Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (right). In its 10th year, the "Cheltenham Booker" awarded a prize to "The One That Got Away": the best novel from those that failed to win the Booker in their year of publication. The shortlist was: A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth, London Fields, by Martin Amis, Any Human Heart, by William Boyd, Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks and Enduring Love, by Ian McEwan. The winner was A Suitable Boy.
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