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Talking 13 to the Man Booker dozen

Talking 13 to the Man Booker dozen

A sample of the comment surrounding this year's longlist announcement shows the Man Booker's unparalleled ability to spark interest. Because the judges are probably the only people on the planet who have yet read all 13 titles the list has been picked over forensically for patterns and signs and different news outlets have taken different angles on what it all means. “Commonwealth authors edged out”, reckoned the BBC (although they couldn't quite get the name of the prize right); the Telegraph, which does love to fill its pages with lists, thought the fact that Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake was crowd-sourced (published after donations covered the costs) was the most notable aspect – the Independent took the same line; Publishing Perspectives lived up to its name and noted pithily that the longlist “Features 4 Yanks”; The Week said that UK and US authors dominated; Australia's ABC News network reported patriotically that “Richard Flanagan the lone Australian on award long list”; while the Irish Independent celebrated Niall Williams's inclusion (and were unequivocal in claiming Joseph O'Neill too despite his Irish-Dutch-American heritage) and the Cambridge News whooped for local girl Ali Smith; the Globe and Mail, meanwhile, bellowed that “Canadian writers excluded from Man Booker long list”, which is not strictly accurate – they weren't excluded they just weren't picked. The comments go on and on and on . . .

A piece of pub-quiz longlist trivia . . . David Nicholls provided the screenplay for his earlier novel One Day, which was made into a very successful film starring Anne Hathaway (Nicholls's Starter for 10 was also made into a film). Richard Flanagan has cinema links too; he co-wrote the script for the Baz Luhrmann film, Australia. Niall Williams has also recently completed the screenplay for a film version of his novel John and Four Letters of Love. Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club was also made into a film, although she had nothing to do with the script.

Stuart Kelly, one of last year's Man Booker judges, may have a fine appreciation of fiction but he is a (self-confessed) duff pundit. Shortly before the longlist was announced he blogged about its possible contents with very mixed results. There would, he said, be three Americans included (there are four) and didn't manage to pick any of them. He did though spot Neel Mukherjee, David Mitchell and Ali Smith (although his other predictions – Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Alan Warner among them – were rather wide of the mark). Kelly should though be given a special award for daring to put his predictions in print and wear the ensuing egg-on-face with aplomb.

As if to show his versatility, David Mitchell, one of this year's MB longlisted authors, has proved he can write short as well as long. The Bone Clocks, the book that caught the attention of the Prize judges, weighs in at 595 pages, his latest endeavour however deals in blocks of 144 characters. The Right Sort is a novel in 280 Tweets that tells the story of a boy and his mother's valium pills: 280 x 144 = 40,320 words. The ongoing story-so-far can be read here.

Seventeen years after she won the MB with The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy, never shy of a controversy, continues to make waves. Her latest furore comes courtesy of comments she made during a speech in which she berated Mahatma Gandhi for being a de facto supporter of the caste system and suggesting that universities should not be named after him. “It is time to unveil a few truths about a person whose doctrine of nonviolence was based on the acceptance of a most brutal social hierarchy ever known, the caste system”, she said. Needless to say, the reaction has been furious. Roy has a long history as a polarising figure so the fuss – a “small thing” – as she might term it, is unlikely to bother her.