The Man Booker 2012 Longlist Tells A Story About The Landscape Of Fiction
It seems obvious that the most exciting event related to the Man Booker Prize should be the announcement of the winner. That is, after all, who gets the money, the prestige and sales – and whose life is dramatically altered, whether it’s an established writer wondering what took the judges so long, or a first time novelist whose second effort is cramped by expectation.
But in my view the moment that holds the most potential is the announcement of the longlist, because a longlist is the least freighted with compromise, and has the greatest capacity to tell a story about the landscape of fiction in any given year.
Never the less, the story that was told with the list, arrived at by this year’s Man Booker judges on Wednesday over lunch, of 12 books for 2012, was not perhaps about fiction this year, but about what literary prizes should be for.
We are, at this moment, more or less in the middle of an excellent year for big British fiction. What does that mean? Well, that people from whom we are always excited to hear have new novels out: Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, John Lanchester, John Banville, Peter Carey, Pat Barker, Rose Tremain, to name a few. Within the confines of a newspaper, it is our job to bring you news of these books, to offer you a sample of them to read where possible, to attempt to give you a glimpse inside the author’s mind, and generally to treat these publications as the events they are (regardless of whether our critics’ views are overwhelmingly positive).