The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 20 September 2018

The Booker Prize Shortlist, 2018

Hello Gentle Reader

The judges for this year’s Booker Prize commented on this year’s shortlist as a: “reflection of the dark times,” in which people currently live in. Without a doubt, the current times in which humanity as a race and as a species finds itself in is troubling and the novels shortlisted for this year’s prize, are said to be a reflection of the anxiety and fear which grips contemporary society. Issues concerning the environment, political upheaval and the rise populism, disenfranchisement, and a uncomfortable expectation to fill traditional roles, are just a few topics which this year’s writers tackle in their novels. Without further ado though, the following list are this year’s shortlisted authors and novels for this year’s Booker Prize:

Esi Edugyan – Canada – “Washington Black,”
Robin Robertson – United Kingdom – “The Long Take,”
Rachel Kushner – United State – “The Mars Room,”
Daisy Johnson – United Kingdom – “Everything Under,”
Richard Powers – United States – “The Overstory,”
Anna Burns – United Kingdom – “Milkman,”

Looking at the shortlist, once again the dominate contenders come from the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively with three finalist coming from the United Kingdom, and another two from the United States, taking the majority spots of the final shortlist, leaving Canadian writer and former Booker Prize nominee, Ersi Edugyan, as a solitary outlier.

This year’s Booker Prize longlist initially turned heads with its daring desire to move away from conventional literary formats and grounds and induct and deliberate, rather unconventional literary formats for the prize, which was the graphic novel “Sabrina,” by Nick Drnaso. The inclusion was met with excitement from critics and the public, who found the induction and inclusion of a graphic novel on the longlist, both daring and revolutionary. It was seen by many as a sign of the changing times of literary culture. However, with the shortlist, the judges had decided to move back towards more conventional grounds of Booker precedence, and literary orthodoxy. There have been a few grumbles over this dismissal, but overall the shortlist has been praised as unique, challenging, and a social conscious eye for concern. Of the shortlist authors, Daisy Johnson is considered a rising but also established start with her novel: “Everything Under.” At just twenty-seven years old, Daisy Johnson is considered to have already begun establishing a career worthy of the name, as her debut story collection: “Fen.” Though she is not the youngest writer to have been shortlisted for the award (Eleanor Catton was also twenty-seven when she was shortlisted), if she wins she will be considered the youngest winner to receive the award at the age of twenty-seven. This in itself is again a positive sign for the prize as it moves steadily away from fixating on established authors and previous winners or nominated writers, and making greater headway for younger and up and coming writers, well on their way to establishing striking and worthy literary careers.

On the flipside of matters, however, this year’s Booker Prize had a unique criticism to make towards some of the books and authors which had been nominated by publishers. Much like I often feel, the judges this year have advised writers to quite being long-winded and overtly verbose in their writing, and encouraged editors to take more active and participatory approach. Many of the nominated books the authors had read during the nomination and longlist deliberations were often over-wrote, and riddled with windbaggery. The judges often felt some of the novels nominated could have been shorter, and would have had greater success if they were shorter, due to a more active editor, and a stronger relationship existing between the two professions. On that note, Gentle Reader, it should be noted to all writers aspiring or otherwise: subtraction can often be addition when done correctly; and on a personal note: I will most likely never read a ‘meganovel,’ or doorstop, tombstone piece of literary work; I personally feel that I have neither the time nor the tolerance or patience to swath and slice through the overgrown jungle text, of someone who believes they have that much to say, only to reveal they have nothing to say.

In the end though Gentle Reader, congratulations to the shortlisted writers. It’s a unique, daring, and experimental shortlist, which again has been described as a unique reflection and perspective of the current situation of contemporary society. Good luck to all the writers!

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

For Further Reading on this year’s Booker Prize Shortlist please see the following articles from “The Guardian,” and “The Telegraph.”

The Guardian -- "Man Booker 2018: Daisy Johnson becomes youngest ever author shortlisted for prize,"

The Guardian -- "Man Booker prize shortlist narrows the field – and also its sights?"

The Telegraph -- "Man Booker Prize judges tell authors: stop being so long-winded,"

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