For the first time, U.S. writers on long-list of contenders for Britain’s Man Booker Prize

July 23, 2014

For the first time, Americans are competing for Britain’s Man Booker Prize — and they’re off to a strong start. Citizens of the United States hold four of the 13 spots on the long-list announced Wednesday in London. They are:

●“We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,” by Karen Joy Fowler, who accepted the PEN/Faulkner Fiction Prize in Washington in May.

●“The Blazing World,” by Siri Hustvedt, who will be a guest at the National Book Festival on Aug. 30.

“To Rise Again at a Decent Hour,” by Joshua Ferris.

“Orfeo,” by Richard Powers­, who won a National Book Award in 2006 for “The Echo Maker.”

“I was one of those who were ambivalent about opening up the prize to Americans,” Powers­ wrote via e-mail in response to the news that he is among the finalists. “This morning, I may be changing my mind a little. Hearing from friends about various ‘Team USA’ tweets makes me feel like the World Cup is still on. I still think nationalism should play no role in literary prizes and the Man Booker should go every year to the Irish.”

Fowler happened to be in London when she heard the news about “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.” “My continued good fortune continues to amaze me,” she wrote via e-mail. “Of course, I never imagined being on the Booker list because, even if I did dream that high, I never imagined I’d be eligible. To be part of the freshman class as a newly eligible American writer is more thrilling than I have words for. (Also, to be honest, fun.)”

The other finalists from around the English-speaking world are:

●“J,” by Howard Jacobson (Britain), who won the Booker prize in 2010 for “The Finkler Question.” “J” will be published in the United States in March 2015.

“The Bone Clocks,” by ­David Mitchell (Britain), whose novels “Number9dream” (2001) and “Cloud Atlas” (2004) were previously shortlisted for the Booker. “The Bone Clocks” will be published in the United States in early September.

“The Dog,” by Joseph O’Neill (Ireland), who won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2009 for “Netherland.” “The Dog” will be published in the United States in early September.

“The Wake,” by Paul Kings­north (Britain).

“The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” by Richard Flanagan (Australia). This novel will be published in the United States in mid-August.

“The Lives of Others,” by Neel Mukherjee (Britain).

“Us,” by David Nicholls (Britain). This novel will be published in the United States in late October.

●“How to Be Both,” by Ali Smith (Britain), whose novels “Hotel World” (2001) and “The Accidental” (2005) were previously shortlisted for the Booker. “How to Be Both” will be published in the United States next year.

●“History of the Rain,” by Niall Williams (Ireland).

Any novel originally written in English and published in the United Kingdom, regardless of the author’s nationality, is now eligible for the annual Booker prize. The philosopher Anthony Grayling is chair of the six-judge panel. The shortlist will be released Sept. 9. The winner of the $85,000 prize will be announced Oct. 14.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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