The Man Booker Prize Shortlist, or: Hilary Mantel’s Preakness Stakes

The Man Booker Prize judges have announced their shortlist, narrowing down their original dozen by half. It’s an interesting selection, made up—as the Booker website is eager to point out— of “two debut novels, three small independent publishers, two former shortlisted authors and one previous winner. Of the six writers, three are men and three are women; four are British, one Indian and one Malaysian.” They all look worth a shot, even if I’m not a big fan of Will Self and have a low tolerance for middle-aged types in crisis looking back on life… but that can all be worked around.

The big question, as far as I’m concerned, is: Will Hilary Mantel do it again? Her first novel in the Tudor saga series, Wolf Hall, won the Booker in 2009. And her newest, Bring Up the Bodies, is a strong contender this year. Mantel is the favorite with British oddsmakers Ladbrokes, currently at 9/4 odds.

Debut novelists Jeet Thayil and Alison Moore have the dark horse factor in their favor, and there are a few small presses worth rooting for. But honestly, I’d be perfectly happy to see Bring Up the Bodies waltz away with the prize. It’s a terrific book, Mantel deserves all the props around, and since there’s a third installment coming, excitement for a possible hat trick could reach fever pitch—never a bad thing to have a little over-the-top excitement in the literary world, as far as I’m concerned. Really, may Hilary Mantel live long and prosper, and keep writing. I promise to be more even-handed about the Booker next year. (And for anyone who wants to try out this even-handedness of which I speak, GalleyCat has free samples of all the nominated books.)

The contenders are:

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
Umbrella by Will Self
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

(Photo of the shortlist book pile courtesy of the Irish Times.)

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