Yesterday’s literary kerfuffle centred on the Man Booker Prize shortlist. There are only three women on the shortlist of 13 authors. Equally perplexing is the lack of writers from the Commonwealth. Just one squeezes through. What’s going on?
The Booker has historically been for writers from the Commonwealth and Ireland. As well as the best of British it has showcased writers like Arundhati Roy, J M Coetzee, Eleanor Catton, Ben Okri, and VS Naipaul. This year the prize has gone global and as a result we have a split British/American shortlist. Perhaps US novelists have excelled above all others this year; perhaps cynical publishers are pushing writers from the most lucrative markets; or it may be there’s a bias in favour of newness. Whatever the reason, it’s a useful moment to consider the breadth of texts we’ll analyse as Tricycle Readers.
What’s surprising is how few writers have short story collections. This makes finding pieces difficult in general, and finding pieces of the right length, a particular struggle. Some short stories read like novellas and others are so short they’ll be over before we’ve finished our first cup of tea… The trick is to find those that will sustain interest across a 15 minute read and provoke or inspire analysis.
The biggest and most enjoyable part of the challenge, given that we have a ten week term (and then two further ten week terms for those members with staying power!) is finding a lively and diverse mix of writing and writers who can both entertain and challenge the group with new perspectives. If you have any suggestions for collections worth researching, please let me know.