It will be some time before the excitement of the Booker long list diminishes in my circle of acquaintances mainly because one of my colleagues in our English Department, Richard House, is included for his remarkable book The Kills. I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about this work as it has progressed and have read the first of the four volumes Sutler. You might feel daunted by the prospect of a novel that comes in at over a thousand pages, but don’t be. Richard is a born storyteller and I promise you’ll soon find yourselves completely involved in the tale he has to tell. Nevertheless, it isn’t the Booker that I want to talk about today, but the newest kid on the block in the world of book awards, The Folio Prize.
As I’m sure you know, this is the prize that came into being after a number of writers and critics expressed dismay over the quality of the books being selected for the Booker short list some years ago and, as a result, the remit for the reward is rather wider than that for the Booker.
The Folio Prize is open to all works of fiction written in English and published in the UK. All genres and all forms of fiction are eligible. The format of first publication maybe print or digital.
Rather than the books being nominated by publishers it will be what is called the Academy who will come up with the first selection, with publishers having a chance to suggest additional titles only as a second option.
The judges will consider a total of 80 books. The first 60 will be nominated by the Academy. Publishers will then be invited to write letters in support of additional titles, after which the balance of 20 books will be called in by the judges.
The sole criterion for judgement will be excellence: to identify works of fiction in which the story being told and the subjects being explored achieve their most perfect and thrilling expression.
There will be no long list, simply a short list of eight from which the winner will then be chosen. The first short list will be announced next February and the prize awarded in March. I have to say that I have some reservations about this selection process, but that isn’t what I wanted to bring to your attention today.
The Academy comprises well known and respected figures from the book world, mostly writers and critics, and in the run up to the first award they have each been asked to imagine that the prize has been running for some decades and to name a book that they would like to have seen win it. The result is a series of posts that you can find at:
Some of these are simply a paragraph saying little more than the equivalent of ‘this is a very good book and I really like it’. Others, however, are far more interesting. The most recent, for example, is a trenchant essay by Anna Funder on Christina Stead’s 1940 novel, The Man Who Loved Children, which she calls probably the most brilliant novel in Australian Literature. And there is a fascinating piece by Michael Cunningham on Literary Prizes, Joyce and Woolf which he concludes by nominating not one but six novels that he thinks deserve to be more widely read, namely:
Elizabeth Bowen, The House in Paris
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Denis Johnson, Train Dreams
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
Grace Paley, The Little Disturbances of Man
James Salter, Light Years
I’ve only just discovered this site but now call in every day to see if there’s something new, especially as every now and again there is a book I haven’t even heard of and many that I have heard of but not previously thought about reading. Should any one be lacking in reading matter for the summer, or have finally worked their way through that mountain known as TBR, then this could provide you with just the stimulus you’re looking for.