Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The 2016 Man Booker Shortlist

The six-book shortlist for the 2016 Man Booker Prize has just been published (9/13/16) (http://themanbookerprize.com/fiction), and I am embarrassed to say that not only have I not read any of these novels, but I have not even read reviews of, or had any other prior knowledge of, them, that I can remember. Deborah Levy? Graeme Macrae Burnet? David Szalay? Madeleine Thien? Paul Beatty? I do know the name of one author, Ottessa Moshfegh, but I don’t think I have actually read anything by her (perhaps a New Yorker story?). One excuse I have is that only two of the novels were (originally at least) published in the U.S.; two others are from the U.K., one from Canada, and one from “Canada-UK.” Books published in the U.K. and Canada are usually not published until later in the U.S., if at all. Also, to be fair to myself, I have usually recognized and sometimes read a couple of titles on the shortlist in past years. Still, this ignorance of these titles and authors this year makes me ponder how it is that I can read as much as I do (over 100 books a year, as well as many magazines and newspapers that include many book reviews), and what I read is mostly literary fiction, and still there can be a list of what are supposed to be the six best books written in English this year, and they are all completely unfamiliar to me. Perhaps I really have limited my reading (of contemporary fiction) too much to a certain type of (mainly) literary fiction by a certain type of author and novel: mostly American, mostly women, mostly “domestic” fiction, mostly character- and relationship-driven. There are many exceptions in my reading to every one of those descriptors, but still, it is overall an accurate summary of my reading preferences. I can’t decide whether I should simply accept this as normal -- everyone has reading preferences, naturally -- or limited and provincial. I do read many book reviews in many venues, and I do try to stretch my reading boundaries (including to many books from different countries and originally written in different languages). Probably I need to try harder. (Addendum: I just saw a brief review of Deborah Levy's book, "Hot Milk," in the New Yorker, 9/26/16. It sounds great, and I am putting it on my "to read" list.)

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