Indie Publishers, Debuts Star on Man Booker Prize Shortlist

In What's the Buzz by Dennis Abrams

By Publishing Perspectives

The Man Booker Shortlist for 2012, including two debut novels, three small independent publishers, two former shortlisted authors, three women, three men, and one previous winner, was announced on September 11.

The shortlist is:

Peter Stothard, Chair of judges, said about the list, “After re-reading an extraordinary longlist of twelve, it was the pure power of the prose that settled most debates. We loved the shock of language shown in so many different ways in the six books we chose – and in the visible confidence of the novel’s place in forming our words and ideas.”

And as the Telegraph points out, this year’s emphasis on language is no accident. Last year’s head judge, Dame Stella Rimington, was roundly lambasted for saying she prized books that “people would read and enjoy,” with fellow judge, former Labour MP Chris Mullen, adding that he liked a novel to “zip along.” This year’s judges, though, obviously had higher aspirations in mind.

“I felt very, very strongly that I wanted to avoid that thing where people say, ‘Wow, I loved it. it’s terrific. I’m afraid quite a lot of what counts for criticism these days is of that sort: how many stars did it get?  Did I have a good time? Would my children like it?  It is opinion masquerading as literary criticism,” said Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement.

Of the six shortlisted titles, three have been published in the U.S: Bring Up the Bodies (Holt), Narcopolis (Penguin Press), and The Garden of Evening Mists (Weinstein Books). Bloomsbury will publish Swimming Home as a paperback on October 16 and Grove Press will publish Umbrella on January 8, 2013. The Lighthouse does not have a U.S. publisher, although a Kindle version is available.

As of now, according to the bookmakers at Ladbrokes, Mantel, who won the Man Booker in 2009 for Wolf Hall is a strong favorite to win again this year for its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, with odds of 9/4. Will Self comes in second at 11/4, followed by Tan Twan Eng and Alison Moore both at 5/1, Deborah Levy at 6/1, and Jeet Thayil at 8/1.

The winner will be announced on October 16, alas, not during the Frankfurt Book Fair.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.