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Weekly Roundup: A closer look at the 2013 longlist

Weekly Roundup: A closer look at the 2013 longlist

If you thought that publishing is an industry that moves at the speed of geological time then you might be surprised that it can, when necessary, show a Usain Bolt-like pair of clean heels. Some of the comment on the recently announced Man Booker Prize longlist has centred on the fact that several of the novels have yet to be published. Longlisting has had the effect of a cattle prod. In order to take the waiting out of wanting and get the books into the hands of eager readers, Alison McLeod’s Unexploded (Hamish Hamilton), which was due to be published in September, will now get an “immediate” release. Eve Harris's The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Sandstone Press) has been brought forward to the start of August. Charlotte Mendelson’s Almost English (Mantle) is also likely to be seen before its official publication date of 15th August. Granta had scheduled a release date of 5th September for The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton while Bloomsbury had pencilled in 26th September for Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland. Both books are now likely to appear rather earlier. The 100 metres at the Rio Olympics now beckons for all the publishers concerned.

A closer look at the Man Booker longlist shows just how clever this year’s judges have been. All MB juries tend to wish they could include more than 13 books – the Man Booker Dozen – on their longlist and you might argue that this year’s panel has succeeded. Richard House’s The Kills is made up of four separate books while Colum McCann’s TransAtlantic is composed of two. Stretching a point (almost to breaking point admittedly), one could add in Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart which contains the viewpoints of 21 different people living in a rural village in south-west Ireland. Using this measure, there are 37 books on the longlist. The jury clearly has a talent for maths as well as literature.

Still with facts and figures … number crunchers have been enjoying themselves with the longlist. They have run the figures through an abacus and pointed out that eight of the 13 longlisted authors are women, seven different countries are represented, three of the longlistees are Irish (Colm Tóibín, Colum McCann and Donal Ryan), three are debut novelists (NoViolet Bulawayo, Eve Harris and Donal Ryan), two of the authors have been shortlisted before (Jim Crace and Colm Tóibín), and there are zero previous winners. For good measure, the longest book on the list is Richard House's The Kills at 1,024 pages and the shortest is Colm Tóibín's The Testament of Mary at 112 pages. The books on the longlist alone comprise a whopping 5,314 pages. Hats off to the judges.

The longlist also contains a Man Booker first: Richard House's The Kills (Picador) first saw life in digital rather than printed form. House's four-part political thriller was more than just an ebook, however, because the publisher and author – an artist and film-maker as well as a writer – collaborated to provide extra electronic material that can be accessed at http://www.thekills.co.uk.