“Once the searchlight is turned on others, your take on the Man Booker is that of any reader – the revelation of books you might not otherwise have come across, and will now read. That is the value of the shortlist (longlist, too) – a swathe of books are highlighted for readers. For me, though, there are also the ones that got away that should have won.”
winner of the Man Booker Prize with her novel Moon Tiger (1987)
It is always interesting to learn about different authors and titles, even more so if they have something extremely interesting to say.
2018 shortlisted authors
The focus of the Man Booker Prize is the novel, rather than the author, and rightly so. But when looking at a painting for instance, don’t you get curious about the mind that created it? Don’t you long to get acquainted with the person behind the brushstrokes, the composition, the choice for the particular theme? It is not just a picture in isolation (for example think of Artemisia Gentileschi or Frida Kahlo). I get very curious about the person behind the work, and this applies to novels as well. So here I would like to share some information which I gathered about the shortlisted authors for 2018. A quick search in a search engine will give you plenty more and in much more detail. But since The Man Booker Prize is a big deal in the book world (the Oscars for books? maybe) I wanted to have my say as well, and maybe get you curious about the person behind the words.
Anna Burns (UK) shortlisted with Milkman (Faber & Faber)
Belfast-born Anna does not really read newly published books right away, because she has a TBR list (like most common mortals).
She finds it is close to impossible to write anything about open wounds. If it is painful, she cannot write about it.
As a child she loved to read Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie and Russian fairy tales, among other things.
Her first childhood attempt at writing a book lasted 10 minutes. She took up this interest again as an adult of 36, when she wrote her first novel No Bones.
For her, writing is about “wanting to communicate something and how engaged and excited and connected I feel with that.”
Esi Edugyan (Canada) shortlisted with Washington Black (Serpent’s Tail)
Best advice Esi was ever given “Drop everything when your children need you. Some days it seems the most obvious thing in the world. Other days it’s a struggle. I’ve never regretted a lost sentence; there’s always another.”
She first wrote poetry when she was thirteen years old. She is glad her poetry did not survive.
Daisy Johnson (UK) shortlisted with Everything Under (Jonathan Cape)
Born in 1990, Daisy is the youngest author to have ever been shortlisted for one of literature’s most prestigious awards.
She writes throughout the day whenever she can— in between emptying the dishwasher and hanging out the wash, after writing emails and after having lunch.
When writing does not come easy she bakes.
When she’s not writing she’s watching films, going to the pub, or eating “as much food as [she] possibly can.” She counterbalances her love of food with running, swimming and rock climbing.
Daisy thinks that it helps to read books similar to the kind you are writing.
She describes herself as a committed reader, which means she needs to read one book at a time.
Rachel Kushner (USA) shortlisted with The Mars Room (Jonathan Cape)
When researching for The Mars Room, she went undercover in a maximum security prison.
On the prison inmates she met while researching for The Mars Room, she said “a lot of people had harm done to them long before what they did to others.”
Rachel does not have a favourite genre, but is into literature that stands the test of time.
As a child, she loved John Steinbeck’s short novels.
Richard Powers (USA) shortlisted with The Overstory (William Heinemann)
Richard Powers, was inspired to write The Overstory by an ancient, monumental tree in California’s Santa Cruz mountain range.
Richard Powers recalls about his childhood that he “was curious about everything and every year was another passion”.
He found it excruciatingly difficult to choose a field of specialisation when he was 16 years old.
After studying physics and a masters in literature he went through an identity crisis.
He claims that the modern human assumption that trees, plants and all other wildlife are “just property” is the root of our species problem.
Robin Robertson (UK) shortlisted with The Long Take (Picador)
Robin is a poet, and it never crossed his mind that his narrative poem, The Long Take, would be eligible for The Man Booker Prize.
For Robin, poetry felt important to him from an early age. He was brought up in a tradition of folksong and storytelling, close to the sea, and with the mountains within reach.
This year’s winning novel will be announced on the 16th of October.
Update, 17th October 2018:
Anna Burns wins Man Booker prize with Milkman. Congratulations Anna.