The Man Booker shortlist will be released on Tuesday, and given some of the surprises of this year's longlist, it is truly difficult to predict what might appear. But that will not stop the (Wo)Man Booker Shadow Panel from writing and chatting about what we feel should appear. Meredith, Nicole, Rebecca, Teresa and I are all posting our personal lists this weekend and our group list on Monday in advance of the official announcement.
Our group's enthusiasm for this year's list was a bit low (I say diplomatically), but there were novels there that did impress me even if not on the same level that Marlon James impressed me last year. So here is my list of six, based solely on my personal preferences and not on any book's likeliness of appearing on the official list Tuesday.
- The Sellout -I have not been shy about my enthusiasm for The Sellout, a brilliant and hilarious book. But I put it forward on this list skeptical of its chances to win the big prize. It is a uniquely American novel in a contest that has only just (begrudgingly) let us colonists in to play.
- Eileen - Moshfegh has written the feminine body in this novel in a deliciously compelling, disgusting and amusing way that serves as one form of alienation in a novel filled with folks who have lost their moorings.
- The Many - Read it twice in the same day. Clever without being gimmicky. Grim but not accepting pity. When you get near the end, and you begin scratching your head thinking you may have missed something, you are right. Go back to the beginning to trace those fractures.
- The Schooldays of Jesus - An allegory, a novel of ideas, whatever popular label you choose to assign it, this novel forces a focus upon the larger questions of our existence through setting it in an alternate reality and establishing a foil, a voice of reason centered in one character. Gorgeous, complex, but also should be read with its predecessor, The Childhood of Jesus, for full effect. Another favorite off the list that I do not think can go the distance. Might not even make it to the shortlist.
- My Name is Lucy Barton - How is one formed by deprivation and abuse? And what degree of distancing is ever possible from our own origins? That sounds like fodder for sappy and horrible when phrased like that, but Strout's writing is as spare and unflinching here as always. She is not aiming for a sympathy plea by disclosing the full extent of this past, but shares small moments from its aftermath. Powerful.
- All That Man Is - Linked short pieces about men away from their natural or accustomed environments and the choices they make in those moments. I could say some of the same things I said about Eileen here - the treatment of the male body, the alienation, those that have lost their moorings, etc. The language is succinct and precise. No backstories. Each character caught in the essence of a moment in time. Brutally direct. Stripped bare. Really admired this one.
It just struck me that I used the word "alienation" twice here but it really applies at some level to all six books I have chosen, maybe to the entire longlist this year. I am super curious to see which six pop up on the shortlist on Tuesday. With what we have seen of the judges choices so far this year, I think it is fair to say that this is a unique group and anything could happen.