2009 Man Booker longlist lacks adventure, says one critic

July 29, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Only in Canada, eh? Well, apparently not. Followers of yr. humble correspondent’s perennial complaints about the timidity of many award juries in this country may be surprised to learn that the same complaints do occasionally surface elsewhere. Specifically, Boyd Tonkin, writing in the Independent, takes on what he feels to be a lack of boldness on the part of this year’s Man Booker jury:

We should never have expected a jury as orthodox in taste as the one James Naughtie chairs to seek out as waywardly extravagant a novel as Joseph’s Box by the Scottish doctor-author Suhayl Saadi, which drives us deep into the history and myths of Europe and south Asia alike. But, in a bolder year, he and other writers from non-corporate imprints might have stood a better chance. For all the formidable works that feature on this Man Booker baker’s dozen, it thumpingly embodies the conventional wisdom of 2009. Whiffs of cordite from the coming battle between A.S. Byatt, Sarah Waters, Colm Toibin and Hilary Mantel (to pick four impressive top contenders) have been perceptible in print for several months already.

It remains to be seen whether the jury will go for a shortlist composed entirely of big names (Byatt, Coetzee, Mantel, Tóibín, and Waters), or whether they will branch out to include underdogs such as James Lever’s mock memoir Me Cheeta, about Hollywood film star Johnny Weismuller’s chimpanzee sidekick. Whatever the final outcome, however, this year’s retreat into anglocentric orthodoxy is undeniable.


One Response to “2009 Man Booker longlist lacks adventure, says one critic”
  1. Suhayl Saadi says:

    Yep. How right you are. Thank you for raising this. Very few people have had the courage to do so. With respect to the relationship b/w my work and the ‘mainstream’, England-based, Anglophone commercial literary establishment… yes, it’s a mouthful. Perhaps, ‘The Enemy’ would be a better and simpler description (!), because it goes to the heart of the nature of power in the numinous world of the arts… also see: