Once again, Frances, Teresa, Nicole, Meredith, and I will be attempting to read the entire Man Booker prize long list over the course of the next six weeks or so. That’s 13 books, and we will be busy. We will announce our own short list on September 12th, one day before the official short list goes live, and — if we follow last year’s pattern, which I think we will — we will announce our winner as well. I wrote a quick write-up of the long list on Book Riot if you’re interested in hearing more about it. Here’s what’s on the list:
Paul Beatty (US) – The Sellout (Oneworld)
J.M. Coetzee (South African-Australian) – The Schooldays of Jesus (Harvill Secker)
A.L. Kennedy (UK) – Serious Sweet (Jonathan Cape)
Deborah Levy (UK) – Hot Milk (Hamish Hamilton)
Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK) – His Bloody Project (Contraband)
Ian McGuire (UK) – The North Water (Scribner UK)
David Means (US) – Hystopia (Faber & Faber)
Wyl Menmuir (UK) –The Many (Salt)
Ottessa Moshfegh (US) – Eileen (Jonathan Cape)
Virginia Reeves (US) – Work Like Any Other (Scribner UK)
Elizabeth Strout (US) – My Name Is Lucy Barton (Viking)
David Szalay (Canada-UK) – All That Man Is (Jonathan Cape)
Madeleine Thien (Canada) – Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Granta Books)
As it turns out, I read one of these books last year, The Sellout by Paul Beatty. I loved it, and I think it will be hard for anything to knock that book off my own personal Booker short list, although we’ll see if my fellow panelists agree with me. I don’t think The Sellout is a perfect book — my interest in it flagged at times — but it’s so funny, so audacious, so ridiculous, and so full of jaw-dropping sentences that I will forgive it any number of flaws.
I just finished Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel Eileen as well. I was thoroughly absorbed in this book, although at times it made me feel slightly ill. Eileen lives with her alcoholic father in a small town outside of Boston. She’s 24, works as an assistant in a prison, lives in a wreck of a house, and is almost completely isolated. She wants to leave her town, but doesn’t know how she will do it. The book is narrated by Eileen as a much older woman, so we know that she does make it out, but we don’t know how. She’s a prickly, difficult, thoroughly unpleasant, disturbing, disgusting person, and we get deep into her mind in ways that are intensely uncomfortable. And I think Moshfegh pulls it off very well. It’s a slow-moving, atmospheric book, and one that gets under one’s skin.
So I’m off to a good start with my Booker reading. Next up is Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk.