Unfortunately I can only select writers from the official Man Booker long list for my imagined shortlist. So I can’t feature Maggie Gee or Evie Wyld or Patrick Ness.
So, a drumroll please… the shortlist will consist of…Crace (because he’s going to win), Toibin (to prove that short novels can be vast and important, and that we’re all grown up enough not to take offence), Mendelson (because we British need to prove we’re able to laugh at ourselves), McCann (because he is a Serious Writer of Great Themes and of course we’re not bitter that he’s American to all intents and purposes), Macleod (because the writing itself is wonderful and we’re all a bit WW2 fixated currently, what with austerity and The Great British Bake Off and all) and a rogue.
My rogue would be Eve Harris for The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, because it’s a spark of joy in a fairly joyless list. The long list features impressive sentences a-plenty, but very few laughs and precious little good-humoured human warmth. Literature with a capital L is a very earnest business – but as Lord Peter Wimsey once said, we either have to laugh or break our hearts in this damnable world. Not everyone is out to get or belittle everyone else.
I suspect the rogue will be Catton, who does interesting things with star charts and far more interesting things with characters. Also, if you’ve carried the hardback around for long enough to finish it, you want to feel it was to some purpose.
Congratulations to all the novelists – the fact that I was reading all but five them for the first time shows the value of the Man Booker in bringing writers to the attention of readers. And gaining readers is the real prize, after all.