In the 2013 the Booker Prize changed their rules, previously only books by English-language authors from the Commonwealth, including the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe were eligible for the Prize. The rules were changed to accept any novels originally published in English by a UK publisher. They also restricted the number of books that a publisher could submit. Previously, any publisher could submit two novels for consideration. Under the new rules, only one could be submitted, unless a publisher who has had one or two longlisted books in the past half-decade, they will be allowed two submissions; a publisher with three or four longlistings three; and a publisher with five or more longlistings will be permitted four submissions.
As Anne Meadows, assistant editor at Granta said at the time, “It means the prize will be dominated by big publishing houses who maybe aren’t taking as many risks. It could make it incredibly elitist.” (BBC)
There was also controversy about the new inclusion of US authors, previously ineligible. As Jackie Kaiser, an agent at Westwood Creative Artists in Toronto who represents Yann Martel, winner in 2002 with Life of Pi (Canongate) said, “I suppose that this move will give the selected books greater publicity and better sales traction in the US, and these aren’t bad things, but while America is clearly the biggest and arguably the most important book market in the world, it isn’t the only one, and with publisher lists in the other English-language territories already allocating valuable fiction slots to US writers, it is hard not to fear that this move may lead to a further Americanisation of literary culture.” (Bookseller)
In the same year, 2013, The Goldsmiths Prize was established by the University of London, “to celebrate the qualities of creative daring associated with the University and to reward fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form. The annual prize of £10,000 is awarded to a book that is deemed genuinely novel and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterises the genre at its best.
Launched in the tercentenary year of the births of Laurence Sterne and Denis Diderot, the Goldsmiths Prize champions fiction that shares something of the exuberant inventiveness and restlessness with conventions manifest in Tristram Shandy and Jacques the Fatalist. The modern equivalents of Sterne and Diderot are often labelled ‘experimental,’ with the implication that their fiction is an eccentric deviation from the novel’s natural concerns, structures and idioms. A long view of the novel’s history, however, suggests that it is the most flexible and varied of genres, and the Goldsmiths Prize seeks to encourage and reward writers who make best use of its many resources and possibilities.” (Goldsmiths)
I originally established this blog, many many years ago, to track the Booker Prize, previous winners and shortlisted novels and to read, review longlisted works as they were announced each year. When the rules changed in 2013, I stopped reading the Booker Prize nominees, and although I returned to read the longlists in 2018 and 2019, I never posted my thoughts as I felt too many titles were bland, or downright awful (ie. ‘Snap’ by Belinda Bauer, unreadable after one paragraph!!). There are of course exceptions, ‘Milkman’ by Anna Burns has been rightfully lauded, earlier this week also picking up the Dublin Literary Award, an award where the longlisted novels are nominated by world libraries.
A week before the announcement of the 2020 Dublin Literary Award , the judges of the 2020 Goldsmiths Prize, Frances Wilson (Chair), Will Eaves, Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Chris Power, announced their shortlist.
‘Mr. Beethoven’ by Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press)
‘A Lover’s Discourse’ by Xiaolu Guo (Chatto & Windus)
‘The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again’ by M. John Harrison (Gollancz)
‘Meanwhile in Dopamine City’ by DBC Pierre (Faber)
‘The Mermaid of Black Conch’ by Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree Press)
‘Bina’ by Anakana Schofield (Fleet)
As a reader who enjoys fiction “that is deemed genuinely novel“ and books that are “an eccentric deviation from the novel’s natural concerns, structures and idioms”, and having enjoyed past winners such as ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’ by Eimear McBride (2013), ‘H(A)PPY’ by Nicola Barker (2017), and ‘Ducks, Newburyport’ by Lucy Ellmann (2019), I have decided that a reading of the 2020 shortlist is right up my alley . Expect some thoughts from me on the 2020 shortlisted titles in the coming weeks.
The winner will be announced on 11 November 2020, too early for me to have read all six titles, but I do intend to read all six.