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Tag: Goldsmiths prize

TOB Longlist and Award Announcements

It has been a busy week. Oh, wait, I was supposed to be talking about awards and longlists. On Monday the Tournament of Books published its 76-book longlist, from which 16 books (plus two additional for play-in rounds) will be chosen for the tournament. The longlist is an amalgam of TOB regulars’ suggestions and books put forth by the TOB powers-that-be. 

I’ve been following the TOB for about 5 years, I think? I’ve known of it for at least a decade (this is its 15th year) but didn’t pay much attention unless I was reading a specific judge’s decision or looking for the winner. Then I started following the tournament closely over the two weeks it takes place, then I discovered the longlist, etc. etc. For the last couple of years I’ve picked up books from the longlist and read them over the course of the year, and I’ve found some real gems. I have fared less well with the actual tournament. I enjoy rubbernecking in the comments section, but the literary sensibilities of most of the judges and the regulars don’t overlap that much with mine. The choices try to reflect a broad range of Anglophone and a few translated novels and short stories, but they tend to be NYC/MFA in their approach. In other words, they’re definitely the books that are talked about in New York publishing, but not necessarily books that are finding audiences in the UK or Europe. And the Canadian selections rarely range beyond the obvious. 

This sounds grumpy, and I don’t want that to be the dominant tone. I’ve loved the sense of discovery I get from perusing the longlist, and while I am not much of a horse-race literature award/contest reader, I like reading the judges’ verdicts and readers’ reactions to them. I find new books and authors, which is the most important and fun thing. 

This year, thanks to reading so many awards-nominated books, I’ve managed to read 16 books on the longlist (definitely the most ever by a lot):

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Goldsmiths Shortlist 2018

The Goldsmiths Prize shortlist was announced yesterday. This may be my favorite literary fiction award. It is dedicated to finding fiction that is innovative and plays with the boundaries of the form. Some nominees have been quite experimental, others less so, but they’re all interesting. I definitely haven’t liked every book I read from the lists, but I’ve also found some gems.

This year’s list:

  • Kudos by Rachel Cusk
  • Murmur by Will Eaves
  • In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
  • The Cemetery in Barnes by Gabriel Josipovici
  • Crudo by Olivia Laing
  • The Long Take by Robin Robertson

I’ve read the Cusk, Robertson, and part of the Gunaratne. I’ve been wanting to get the Eaves but it isn’t published in the US yet so there’s the inevitable finding-it-elsewhere issue (and no ebook version). I wasn’t much interested in the Laing, but I’ll read it now. And I’d never heard of the Josipovici although he’s 77 and greatly admired.

The Robertson and Gunaratne are on the Booker shortlist, and Kushner is nominated for the third straight year. The Laing was tipped by a number of people since it got quite a bit of buzz when it was published.

I’ll read the full list and report back. I need to write up a proper review of the Cusk. And I still have my three remaining Booker longlist books to write about, some of which I still have to finish.

I’m working on the National Book Awards list but haven’t started any of the Giller longlist yet. That shortlist comes out on October 1 and I may just punt and read those (plus whatever doesn’t make it that I already decided I wanted to read).

I would love a three-day escape where I did nothing but read books. Instead I’m reading hundreds of pages for work each week and I have two papers to revise in the next month. But that’s another whole post’s worth of complaining so I won’t do it here. 🙂

The literary awards season is upon us

Yesterday the Giller Prize longlist was announced. Last week the National Book Awards longlists were announced, comprising four old and one new categories: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, juvenile fiction, and now translated fiction. On Thursday the Booker shortlist is announced, and then next week the Goldsmiths shortlist is announced. That’s a lot of potential books to read. And no, I’m not planning on reading all of them. I will finish the Booker longlist (and keep posting my reviews). I have 1 1/2 books to go and hope to have the 1/2 done by Thursday. I’m intrigued by the Giller list and I’ve only read one book from the longlist, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, which is also a Booker longlist nominee. I’m planning to sample as many books as I can from the Giller and NBA longlists, but there’s no way I can read them before the shortlists are announced in October. I really enjoyed my Giller readings last year, though, not least because I hadn’t even heard of many of the books. The US literary industry is terrible at covering Canadian lit until there’s an award nomination unless the person is already well known. Here’s the longlist from the CBC website (links go to CBC pages which tell you more about the books and authors: Read the rest of this entry »

Recent reading: Awards season

I’m still reading, somewhat more slowly given other demands, but steadily. Fall is awards season in literature-land and new short and long lists are popping up all over. And of course October is when the Nobel Prize in Literature is announced. This year the committee went for a candidate whose choice lots of people could understand and approve: Kazuo Ishiguro. Like many readers, I’ve read Remains of the Day, and we have several other books of his on our shelves. I didn’t love Remains of the Day, which I read soon after it came out, so I hesitated to read more from him, but that was definitely my problem not his. It’s a brilliant, lovely book, but I encountered it just when I was really tired of reading about the travails of comfortably situated white people and I couldn’t see past that, even though I could see the quality and artistry. I need to reread it, but that will have to wait until I’ve read some of the other works. I’m especially looking forward to The Buried Giant.

Man with seagull coverI read one more off the Not The Booker Prize list and loved it: Man With A Seagull on His Head by Harriet Paige. It’s a debut novel from a small press and it’s just as quirky as the title suggests, but it’s also insightful and quietly satisfying. It tells the story of artist Ray Eccles and the people around him. Ray is (literally) hit on the head by a diving seagull while he’s at the beach and he becomes obsessed with painting a woman he saw there at the same time. He’s discovered by a couple, George and Grace Zoob, who find and publicize “outsider artists,” and becomes quite a sensation. I hesitate to describe Ray as an artist, although he clearly produces art, because I think of artists as guided by intentionality, and Ray is compelled to paint rather than choosing to do so. His talent and fame affect the Zoobs and their young daughter, as well as the object of his paintings, Jennifer Mulholland, and Ray himself. The story is told from multiple POVs and stretches over a couple of decades despite being a fairly short book. And there is a pigeon. It’s a meditation on art, loneliness, attachment, and other aspects of the human condition, all told in an understated, unpretentious but deeply thoughtful way.

I also discovered that one of the major Canadian literary prizes, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, had just released its shortlist this week:

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Recent reading: award nominees and challenge choices

September is always a super-busy month for me but I’ve managed to keep reading. In addition to the Booker shortlist in the first half of the month, the Goldsmiths Prize shortlist was announced last week. The Goldsmiths is given to a novel written by a UK or Irish author which is “genuinely novel and which embodies the sprit of invention that characterises the genre at its best.” There is frequently overlap with the Booker but not always, and usually not much. The six nominees are:

  • H(A)ppy by Nicola Barker
  • A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume
  • Playing Possum by Kevin Davey
  • Reservoir 13 by Jon MacGregor
  • First Love by Gwendoline Riley
  • Phone by Will Self

I’d heard of 4 of the 6 and was thrilled to see the MacGregor on the list. Like many readers, I’d never heard of Playing Possum, which is published by the wonderfully named Aaargh! Press. The Barker and the Baume had been on my radar, and I’ve been meaning to read a Will Self novel. I’ve managed to pick up half the list through the library and will order the Barker for sure.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading a bit more of the Booker list and other award-nominee novels, along with some lighter and more comfort-oriented fare.

History of Wolves coverA History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. I bounced off the description because it sounded like another MFA-influenced novel about retrospective looks at teenage girls. But after it made the Booker shortlist and I read quite a few positive and convincing reviews and comments, I decided to try it. It didn’t start well; I had to force myself to keep reading through the first third of this novel. The writing felt overly self-conscious and I wasn’t convinced that it was in character. There are two storylines, one involving Maddie/Linda’s schoolmate and a teacher, the other involving a mother and child who come to live near Linda in the woods. The two parts don’t cohere and it’s not clear where anything is going. But then Leo, the father, shows up, and things start to fall into place.

The book is about so many things, too many really, because Fridlund can’t quite bring everything together. But the themes are important and her approach to them is unusual. The teacher-student relationship, the role of religion in Leo and Patra and Paul’s lives, Linda’s relationship with her parents, all of these are written beautifully and the twists and turns in each storyline are unexpected. Read the rest of this entry »