The IMPAC Award shortlist was announced today. The IMPAC sets itself apart with its unique approach. Its massive longlist is compiled by libraries all over the world before being whittled down by judges. This makes for a more egalitarian selection. It’s also got a long lead time. Books up for the current prize (to be named June 12th) were mostly published in 2013, putting the IMPAC more than a year behind other big literary awards. There’s a distinct upside in this. By now, nearly all the shortlisted books are available in paperback in the U.S.
The IMPAC also tends to be interesting for the breadth of books it considers, and the 2014 shortlist is no exception, with each author hailing from a different country and four books in translation among the ten finalists. It is disappointing to see, however, that only two of the ten shortlisters are by women.
The Detour (published in the US as Ten White Geese) by Gerbrand Bakker (After The Dinner: A Round Up of Newly Translated Dutch Fiction)
Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser
Absolution by Patrick Flanery (The Mutability of Truth: An Interview with Patrick Flanery)
A Death in the Family (published in the US as My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Devoutly to Be Wished: Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Consummation“)
Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye
Traveler of the Century by Andrés Neuman
The Light of Amsterdam by David Park
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Nick Harkaway’s Year in Reading)
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
The unmissable book of the year for me is The Garden Of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng. I came to it without any clear idea of whether I was going to love it or hate it and I was continually surprised by how it could take what ought to be situations of utter despair and make them uplifting, funny, and heartening. I love that. I also found it believable; several of the people I have met who have lived through nightmares – former prisoners of the Khmer Rouge and former Gitmo and death row inmates alike – possess the same faculty.
Following on from that thought: the late Tom Bingham’s book on what the law means and where it comes from – The Rule of Law – is basically indispensable if you consider yourself an active and engaged citizen of a democratic nation. Cogent, elegant, clear, and simple – and short, which is a wonder – it’s absolutely required reading. Trust me: just pick it up and look at a little bit. Then tell me you don’t care about what he’s saying. (You won’t. You’ll buy the book and follow his lucid discussion to the end.)
At the opposite end of the scale, Huysmans’s remarkable Against Nature is a portrait of a man who is apparently completely pointless, or at least entirely disconnected – and yet it is also absolutely compelling. The exacting way in which Des Esseintes organizes his life to reflect himself and his isolated way of being has a kind of black hole attraction. It would take me about ten days to go nuts in his place, but I find the relentless pursuit of solitude and a controllable, obedient environment just gripping.
On a lighter note, John Scalzi’s Redshirts is little bit of genius. It starts out as a very funny Star Trek in-joke and then crosses the rubicon to become a somewhat disturbing examination of that joke before diving into the dark and delivering a strange, bittersweet literary ending which isn’t so much a punchline as it is the moment when you realize you’ve been paying for your drinks all night with $100 bills instead of $10s but that at the bottom of your plate of peanuts there’s a diamond.
And I just bought myself a copy of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, in defiance of my new rule that I don’t buy paper books unless the edition is utterly gorgeous and keepable, because I’ve never read it and I want to.
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Hilary Mantel is the headline name on the 2012 Booker shortlist as she looks to repeat the stunning success of her first Thomas Cromwell book, Wolf Hall. Alison Moore and Jeet Thayil make the list with their first novels. The longlist was offered here with some excerpts a month ago, but since you might not have gotten around to them then, we’ll offer the same with the shortlist below.
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (review)
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (excerpt, review)
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (excerpt 1, excerpt 2, review)
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (excerpt [pdf])
Umbrella by Will Self (YouTube video of author reading)
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (Millions review, excerpt)
With the unveiling of the Booker Prize longlist, the 2012 literary Prize season is officially underway. As is usually the case, the list offers a mix of exciting new names, relative unknowns and beloved standbys. The lone past winner (for Wolf Hall, the prequel to her current longlister) is Hilary Mantel. At the other end of the experience spectrum, four debut novelists make the list: Rachel Joyce, Alison Moore, Jeet Thayil and Sam Thompson.
All the Booker Prize longlisters are below (with excerpts where available):
The Yips by Nicola Barker (review)
The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (review)
Philida by André Brink (publisher synopsis)
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (review)
Skios by Michael Frayn (excerpt, review)
The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (excerpt, review)