Booker Prize 2008 shortlist surprises
The Man Booker Prize issued its 2008 shortlist Tuesday in London. The Booker, which many have called the definitive English language literary competition, never fails to spark controversy, from contention over who was left off the shortlist, as much as those who remain in the running until the Oct. 14 announcement.
The contestants are selected from a pool of the year's English-language novels published in a British Commonwealth country, plus the Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. The Times calls this year's group "young, sexy, colorful." The 2008 shortlist bears representatives from India, England, Ireland and Australia.
Two of the six are first-time novelists. Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger and Steve Holtz's A Fraction of the Whole have both garnered significant support to take the prize, despite their veteran competition. Other finalists are Philip Hensher's The Northern Clemency, Linda Grant's The Clothes on their Backs, Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies and Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture.
Barry, who was shortlisted in 2005 for A Long, Long Way, was one of two Irish writers expected to secure finalist positions. The other was Joseph O'Neill, with Netherland, who joins Salman Rushdie as the pair of surprise snub-ees.
Rushdie is the prize winner of the Booker of Bookers (which marked the award's 25th anniversary) and Best of the Booker (its 40th), both of which he took with his 1981 novel Midnight's Children. Though Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence has received dicey reviews, the British media has been shocked (and, it seems, secretly delighted) by the exclusion.
There are several statements floating around from current Booker judges about what they deem to be Rushdie's "patchy" performances of late. But the disallowance of his latest is widely recognized as a confirmation of one thing: this year's competition is fierce. Barry's The Secret Scripture, by far the lowest in sales, pre-Booker, is the overall favorite to win, but as The Times put it, "There's not one stinker in the 2008 Man Booker shortlist."
NYTimes.com: "Rushdie Snubbed on Booker Shortlist"
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