November 16, 2004



What was The Five People You Meet in Heaven doing on that list?

Cheryl Morgan

It isn't really a long list as we understand it. It is the full list of books that have been submitted for the prize. Rather as if the Booker folks published a list of every book their judges were going to read.

But it is an interesting list, because you've got people from all around the world nominating. I'm delighted to see the likes of Nalo Hopkinson, Johanna Sinisalo and Zoran Zivkovic nominated.

Dan Wickett

Thank you Annette!

dexter petley

i share the derision at the impac longlist, but let me add the missing perspective. i'm one of the writers on this 2005 longlist and i'm trying to come to terms with a kind of gratitude while retaining my long held disgust at the domination of literary prizes in contemporary fiction. i'm a mid-list author of lit fiction with very low sales and zero publicity. there are thousands like me and we're the rank outsiders for prizes we never usually get entered for. our publishers dont give a toss about us, we're just in the catalogue as token quality, something to remainder next year. we're like child labour sowing footballs together. fair trade has yet to enter publishing. we're unpromoted, therefore unreviewed, thus unsold, unread. publishers are the only multi-national conglomerates who don't promote the bulk of their products. my books dont even get into bookshops. our editors tell us, in all seriousness, that nothing will change unless we "win a prize". they want something for nothing. publishers are limited to submitting 2 novels, which usually adds up to a total number of submissions equivelent to the impac longlist. my publisher alone turns out over 200 novels a year, therefore mid-list losers like me never get entered for the booker. this makes the booker the literary prize least qualified to reflect the actual state of contemporary fiction, and yet for many readers, the media, and all bookshops it defines it. in fact, the booker is a conspiracy against fiction and all publishers are implicated. for instance, my publisher, 4th estate/harper collins, buys in, for huge advances, big names just for the prize lists. a tactic which rarely works, but conglomerates are desperate gamblers. editors take all the credit for success but blame failure on the writer. they're self-obsessed and need to be seen on prize-giving night, pissed and gloating on tv, or in vogue or hello magazine throwing money away in self-promotion which in the past would've financed a first novel. the booker leads where others follow. the prize winners are then bought and sold like footballers in time for the next prize. the shortlists are generally rented out from one prize to another because these prizes need the publicity. there are too many, they're in competition, and they're sponsored by corperate money from the advertising fund. orange is a phone, whitbread is a beer, man booker is something to do with junk food, i dont know what impac is but i doubt it bears scrutiny with a bag of loot as big as 60 grand sterling. you just have to look at the headlines around the impac longlist anyway. only the prizewinners from the orange, booker, whitbread, gaurdian etc are mentioned. us unknowns on the list probably wont sell one single extra copy. my own publisher has just dumped me for low sales anyway so i'm on the longlist without a publisher or an agent,actually enjoying my liberty. 147 books on a longlist chosen from all the fiction published worldwide in english for 2003 works out at about 1 novel in 1000, a better statistic than the booker. i dont, therefore, feel insulted by my inclusion, just depressed by the comments, and not a little disappointed at the organisers of the prize themselves for playing into the conspiracy. the nomination structure is the only good thing about it all.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."


  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald


    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe


    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."