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October 26, 2011

Man Booker Prize 2011: seven months to read 138 novels

One person's 'European novel' was another's 'self-indulgent twaddle': Man Booker judges Susan Hill, Chris Mullin, Stella Rimington, Matthew d’Ancona and Gaby Wood, with the six shortlisted works

For Telegraph Head of Books Gaby Wood, judging this year’s Man Booker Prize, awarded on Tuesday to Julian Barnes, was an honour – and a marathon too. Here she looks back at a year of aching eyes, intense debate and moments of raw reading pleasure.

By Gaby Wood

In June 2010, Ion Trewin, Literary Director of the Man Booker Prizes, emailed me out of the blue and asked if I’d consider being on the jury of the 2011 prize. He made no effort to disguise the amount of work involved: 2010’s judges, he said, had read 125 books in just over half a year. At that point, I had been at the Telegraph, and living in this country, for a total of three months. I could think of few things less convenient than reading 125 novels.

I said yes.

Later, almost all of the advice passed on from former judges concerned volume. “Stand with your back to the kitchen counter, and put the sharpest knife you have on the edge of it,” said one. “Keep reading, and if you start to fall asleep, you’ll get stabbed in the bum.”

“Is that when you decide the book’s too boring to win?” I asked.

“No. That’s how you make yourself keep going!”

As it turned out, there weren’t 125 books. There were 138.

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July 28, 2011

Man Booker Prize 2011: Twitter ‘stopping children reading’, says judge Dame Stella Rimington

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:15 am

Children spend so much time on Twitter and mobile phones that they are losing their love of novels and reading less, the chair of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction has warned.

By Tim Ross

Dame Stella Rimington Photo: EPA/ANGEL DIAZ

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, said she was concerned that pupils were missing out on the pleasure of books as electronic communications increasingly dominate their lives.

The judges yesterday announced this year’s longlist of 13 novels, including one of the shortest books ever selected for the 42-year-old award, four first-time novelists and one previous winner.

Dame Stella said that while she was confident a market for fiction would still exist in 100 years, she feared many children were not growing up to be book lovers. “I think much of the Twittering and emailing and texting and all that sort of stuff that children go in for now may be taking their eyes off reading fiction. When I was young we read more than the average child reads now.”

Teachers needed to find ways to instil a love of fiction in children, she said, although electronic “reader” devices that can store hundreds of books and newspapers, such as the Amazon Kindle, “could help turn the tide”.

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Man Booker prize 2011 longlist includes quartet of debut novels

Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English leads charge by first-time authors as previous winners fail to make 13-strong longlist.

By Mark Brown

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A debut novel chronicling gang warfare in Peckham has joined efforts by a former Man Booker winner, Alan Hollinghurst, and Julian Barnes – the novelist many people mistakenly think must have won – on this year’s longlist for the prestigious prize.

Stephen Kelman, who was a warehouseman, care worker and local government administrator before taking up writing in 2005, was longlisted for Pigeon English, one of the more eye-catching additions to a lineup that includes four first-time novelists.

The book, which draws on the murder of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor and for a time languished on a literary agency’s slush pile, eventually became the subject of a bidding war last year before being picked up – shrewdly, as it turns out – by Bloomsbury.

The list is striking for its range of subject matter although, given that a former spymaster is in charge, a bit more intrigue might have been expected. But former MI5 director Dame Stella Rimington told the Guardian: “There is no espionage, no … there are, though, two post-cold war books. Not because of me, but by general agreement.”

It took judges around two hours to get the list down to 13 from the 138 books read. “We’ve had a lot of fun today,” said Rimington. “It was an impassioned debate, but – without any acrimony and with a great deal of humour – we’ve come up with a longlist we’re all pleased with.

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