Tag Archives: Man Booker

Facts, and Opinions, this week

Howard Morry, left, brings his sheep in from the community pastures on the islands off Tors Cove, Newfoundland. Like generations of farmers and fisherman have been doing for hundreds of years. Life goes on in rural Newfoundland and the old ways are still practiced despite the loss of its historic economy and 50,000 people. See Greg Locke’s photo essay on his recent travels through Newfoundland and finding what he thought was lost.

F&O starts our week in easternmost Canada, with Greg Locke’s photo-essay about the resilience (and beauty) of rural Newfoundland. We focus onPope Francis’s visit to the Americas; relish the news about Africa’s bright spot of Ivory Coast; puzzle at a seemingly-crazy notion that orange juice could replace petroleum; and heed Tom Regan’s warning about a future of massive migration. Read about Corbynomics by its creator, and discover how in Alabama the womb is increasingly a crime scene. And then, take a leisurely stroll in the Arts, with Brian Brennan’s Brief Encounter on Elizabeth Taylor; the relationship between The Martian movie and Robinson Crusoe; and a tale about the Man Booker awards.

Note to readers: Please excuse some disarray. F&O is almost sorted from our major move; we’ll get the mess cleared away soon. Emailed access codes will be emailed to paid subscribers this weekend. Thank you for your support — and patience.

Dorothy's last meeting with Mother Teresa, in Dorothy's room at Maryhouse in Manhattan. Eileen Egan is on the left. The photo was taken in 1979, the year before Dorothy's death, by Bill Barrett. (Marquette University Archives via Jim Forest, Flickr)

Dorothy Day’s last meeting with Mother Teresa, 1979.

Pope Francis and Dorothy Day Economics. By Chuck Collins

Perhaps the most subversive part of Pope Francis’ speech to the United States Congress was in celebrating a little-known figure and thus reviving interest in what Dorothy Day stood for. And if we truly heed the teachings of Dorothy Day, we would radically transform our society and economy.

Pope to Canonize Friar Serra: a halo stained with blood?

Faith and tradition in Cuba. Report and Photo-essay

Watch Pope Francis’s address to the US Congress:

A reflection is seen in the window of a Woodin clothing store at the newly expanded Cap Sud mall in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, September 14, 2015. From Abidjan’s packed airport arrivals hall to the buildings mushrooming across the capital, Ivory Coast is booming, a rare African bright spot as the world’s biggest cocoa producer bounces back from a 2011 civil war. Buyers of luxury apartments include Ivorians living overseas, while promoters from Morocco, Turkey and China are attracted by tax breaks. Elections - the source of national unrest four years ago - are due in a month but there is no let-up in investment given expectations of an easy victory for incumbent Alassane Ouattara. The government predicts 9.6 percent growth this year, making the former French colony the standout performer on a continent hammered by a slump in commodity prices, capital outflows and tumbling currencies. REUTERS/Joe PenneyPICTURE 22 OF 33 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "IVORY COAST IS BOOMING". SEARCH "BOOMING PENNEY" FOR ALL IMAGES

Africa’s Bright Spot: Ivory Coast is booming. A  photo essay

From Abidjan airport’s packed arrivals hall to the hotels and plush villas mushrooming across the city, Ivory Coast is booming, a rare African bright spot as the world’s biggest cocoa producer bounces back from years of turmoil and civil war.

When the Womb is a Crime Scene. By Nina Martin

Women in Alabama are running afoul of the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute, the United States’ toughest criminal law on prenatal drug use. Passed in 2006 as methamphetamine ravaged Alabama communities, the law targeted parents who turned their kitchens and garages into home-based drug labs, putting their children at peril. A woman can be charged with chemical endangerment from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even if her baby is born perfectly healthy, even if her goal was to protect her baby from greater harm.


Crisis just beginning of massive migrations. By Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda columnist

The current migrant crisis is only the tip of the iceberg. What will drive the next great wave of refugees will not be political violence, but climate change.

Can orange peel could replace crude oil in plastics? By Marc Hutchby

New research indicates orange juice could have potential far beyond the breakfast table. The chemicals in orange peel could be used as new building blocks in products ranging from plastics to paracetamol – helping to break our reliance on crude oil.

Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party greets supporters after speaking in a pub in London, Britain September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall


Jeremy Corbyn and the economics of the real world. By Richard Murphy

As the creator of what has come to be known as Corbynomics, I argue that my policies are at the core of tackling the austerity narrative.

ICYMI: JEREMY CORBYN: British Labour’s New Leader

Art Following Life: Elizabeth Taylor, a Brief Encounter by Brian Brennan (*subscription)

My very brief encounter with Elizabeth Taylor occurred late on a Saturday afternoon in May 1983 on a busy street in midtown Manhattan. A mounted New York City policeman was barking orders to the small crowd of about 30 waiting outside the stage door of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street: “Everybody keep to the sidewalk and stay behind the barricades!” Why all the fuss?

Booker shortlist: bastion against death of the novel. By Stacy Gillis

The 2015 year’s Man Booker shortlist features two Britons, two Americans, one Jamaican and a Nigerian (four men and two women) and has been applauded for its diversity.

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Photo: 20th Century Fox

The Martian — and Robinson Crusoe, Matt Damon and Viola Davis. By Victoria Anderson

In The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott, Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut left stranded on Mars. Alone, presumed dead, he must work out a way to survive. If this storyline sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it is.

In Case You Missed It:

Note to readers: if you are a subscriber and do not receive your new site password by Monday, please email editor@factsandopinions.com 


Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us with a contribution, below, of at least .27 per story, or a site pass for $1 per day or $20 per year. We’d be grateful if you’d help us spread the word.


Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

Booker shortlist: bastion against death of the novel

By Stacy Gillis, Newcastle University
September, 2015

The 2015 year’s Man Booker shortlist features two Britons, two Americans, one Jamaican and a Nigerian (four men and two women) and has been applauded for its diversity. Some of those considered frontrunners – such as Pulitzer winner Marilynne Robinson and former winner Anne Enright – were overtaken by new writers.

The listed novels certainly comprise an eclectic and exciting mix. Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings is a tale of gang violence in Jamaica and the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. Then there’s UK author Tom McCarthey’s Satin Island, a short but dense avant garde novel narrated by a “corporate anthropologist” called U. The 734 pages of American Hanya Yanagihara’s widely acclaimed A Little Life explore love and friendship between four middle-aged men in New York, whilst mediating on the trauma of child sexual abuse.

Literati the world over will now be pencilling the six down on to-read lists. At least one is sure to appear in your stocking this Christmas. The publishers of the happy few will have sent out new orders for vastly inflated print runs, anticipating the heightened demand.

And herein lies the reason why we have the prize. It is the publisher’s answer to the persistent grumble that fiction is in its death throes, something that has been a regular and common strand to accompany this art form for the past couple of centuries, but more prevalent with the rise in digital publishing.

While the argument today is couched in new terms – and the fear of the digital creating or sustaining substantial change is a hallmark of debates across a number of fields – the questions raised just aren’t particularly new in terms of fiction.

Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings. Jeffrey Skemp

There’s the concern that digital publishing is wary of opening the floodgates – everyone can publish! There are no safeguards in terms of quality! How will we know what is a “good” thing to read anymore!

We’ve been here before. Women writing novels? Indeed, anyone not a part of a male and white establishment writing novels? More books published in a year than might be read (a real concern in the mid-19th century)? The concern about quality and how we can know what to read is paramount, and long standing.

There’s also the concern about how people read books. If people can dodge, duck, dip, and dive through the hundreds of thousands of pieces self-published each year online, how will the traditional form of The Book – with its contribution to understanding about the human condition (as agreed by the author, agent, editor and publisher), its lovely covers, its capacity to fit neatly in two hands, even its organisation into chapters – survive?

This debate is partly fuelled by traditional publishing houses who see the threat to their economic livelihood. But concerns about how The Book will survive are hardly new either. The shift from hardcover to paperback raised similar concerns, as did the impact of the penny dreadfuls in the late 19th century, and the marketing of books on train platforms by Penguin in the 1930s. While the contexts of the debate may have changed, what is at stake has not.

Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life. Jenny Westerhoff

It’s no surprise that book prizes have exploded in quantity over the past 20 years.

The book prize assuages those fears that we won’t know what to read. A prize, even being longlisted, is a sign of a “good” novel. And a “serious” book prize, such as the Booker, is also a coup for publishers, leading to investment in print runs and therefore the physicality of text, with new cover design and art, re-printing on higher-quality paper, possibly a re-set with a more arty font. This then becomes an object to own and to display. The book prize, therefore, is a reification of the novel in its “proper” form.

But of course, such an idea about the “proper” form of the novel are by no means set. When J M Dent started his Everyman’s Library series in 1906, the front matter contained a quotation from a medieval morality play: “Everyman, I will go with thee, and be they guide.” In the play, the character of Everyman is given moral and intellectual sustenance from another character, Knowledge.

The purpose of the Everyman’s Library was to publish beautiful editions of classic texts. Here again are the same long-standing debates about The Book which are currently encapsulated in the book prize: the “good” novel’s purpose is both to look good on the shelf, and to act as a social commentary or moral guide. In both cases, this is about showing what you know, to others, and to yourself.

This year’s shortlist contains some established names and others who will be new to most. While the award of the Booker is of tremendous impact for the winner in any given year, both in terms of financial and cultural capital, the debates about what constitutes a “good” novel do not change substantially. This year’s shortlist will indubitably result in op-eds and reviews which lament the state of The Novel, and in the place of the book prize in contemporary culture. But this is nothing new – we’ve been here before, many times.

Creative CommonsThe Conversation

Stacy Gillis is a Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature, Newcastle University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us, with a contribution below –we suggest at least .27 per story, or $20 per year for a site pass —- and by spreading the word.


Posted in Also tagged , , |

The Man Booker is stacked in favour of big publishers

By Stevie Marsden
July, 2015

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction has announced its longlist for the 2015 award. Now in its 46th year, the award is among the most prestigious in the literary world. It is also incredibly generous to the big publishing houses. Five of the six books shortlisted last year came from Penguin Random House, following a longlist where nine out of the 13 books came from the big publishers. This year it is eight out of 13. But whether or not you think this sounds too much, the real problem lies in submission rules that risk locking in this dominance and making it progressively worse in years to come.

Various changes to the competition’s terms and conditions became effective for the first time in 2014. Most controversial was the decision to accept entries from US authors as well as those from the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth countries. But while the likes of Melvyn Bragg spoke out, other more insidious changes are potentially much more damaging.

In particular, the number of books publishers are entitled to enter into the competition changed. This greatly increases the chances of winning for books published by the imprints of the conglomerates that dominate the industry – Bertlesmann/Pearson (owner of Penguin Random House), News Corporation, Hachette and Holtzbrinck.

The previous rule was that all UK publishers were entitled to enter two full-length novels along with a list of up to five other titles. Each title from this next best five had to be accompanied by a 250-word “justification for submission”, written and signed by the book’s editor. From these additional lists, the judges were invited to call in “no fewer than eight and no more than 12” books for adjudication for the prize.

Since 2014, publishers have no longer all been treated in the same way. The number of entries that each was entitled to submit now depended on their success in acquiring longlist positions in the previous five years. It is allotted as follows:

What happens in practice

At first glance, the new system appears to simply be a means of managing the number of entries Man Booker receives each year. Having worked in the administration of a book award myself, helping the Saltire Society in the management of its series of awards for Scottish literature, I can understand why Man Booker would want to try and restrict the number of entries it receives to control the number of books the judges are expected to read.

In practice, though, the new system is hugely problematic because the backlist of longlisted publishers in the past five years has been dominated by the conglomerates. Of the 75 books longlisted between 2010 and 2015, 23 came from imprints from Penguin and Random House (the two publishers merged in 2013 to become Penguin Random House). Penguin Random House’s fellow conglomerate publishers have also been extremely successful over this period. Hachette (Hodder & Stoughton, Sceptre, Virago and Headline Review) has received nine listings. Holtzbrinck, owner of Pan Macmillan, and News Corporation, owner of Harper Collins, have received seven and five respectively.

That leaves 31 nominations spread among the independents. That might not sound like overwhelming dominance, but it means that the conglomerates are entitled to submit significantly more entries than other publishers. Much of this is to do with their imprints. In the past five years, seven of the Penguin Random House imprints have been listed. All but two have received two or more longlistings, with Chatto & Windus taking the lead with five books longlisted over the five-year period.

According to the new rules, this means that Penguin Random House can submit 17 books next year for the prize. Compare this to successful independent publishers such as Faber & Faber or Canongate. Faber & Faber received its fourth longlisting in five years this year, so will be entitled to submit up to three books for the Man Booker next year. Canongate has been longlisted twice and will be eligible to submit just two books. As for new or smaller independent publishers which have never been longlisted in the past five years, they are only entitled to submit one book.

The Penguin Random House fiesta

Some may counter that it’s not fair to individual imprints to consider them in terms of their larger corporate identities. Each has an individual identity and ethos that is reflected in the books they publish. Be that as it may, there is no denying that the overbearing presence of Penguin Random House and, to a lesser extent, the other conglomerates within longlists and shortlists is disconcerting.

Year on year, Penguin Random House has seen a growth in the number of its longlisted entries being shortlisted each year, going from having no shortlisted titles in 2012 to the five out of six books in the 2014 shortlist. The relationship was further cemented with the (surprisingly quiet) announcement earlier this month that Emmanuel Roman, chief executive of Man Group, the lead sponsor of the prize, joined Penguin Random House’s board of directors. For those who believe that awards need to be scrupulously fair, it did not exactly send out a good message.

Only time will tell if the domination of the Man Booker longlists and shortlists by major conglomerate publishers will continue. So far this dominance has not necessarily been reflected by the winning books – three of the last five were from the big houses, including last year’s winner, Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Will this become more entrenched in future? Given the state of this year’s longlist, once again led by four Penguin Random House entries from Jonathan Cape and Chatto & Windus, the risks are that it will.

Creative Commons

The Conversation

Stevie Marsden is PhD student at University of Stirling. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us with a a subscription or $1 day pass, or a donation (below), and by telling others about us. To receive our free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page.  


Posted in Also tagged , |

Man Booker Longlist goes Global


The reading room of the British Museum in London. Photo by David Iliff, Creative Commons via Wikipedia

Organizers of  the Man Booker Prize released their first long list in a competition open to the wide world — or at least to titles written originally in English, and published in the United Kingdom.

Read the column Judging the Man Booker Prize by literature professor and 2012 judge Dinah Birch, in F&O’s Ex Libris section.

The list includes four independent publishers and one publisher, Unbound, that is crowd-funded. Four Americans made the list for a prize previously restricted to the United Kingdom, Commonwealth countries, the Republic of Ireland, and Zimbabwe. The titles were winn owed to 13 from 154 original entries. They are:

  • Joshua Ferris (American) — To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking)
  • Richard Flanagan (Australian) — The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus)
  • Karen Joy Fowler (American) — We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent’s Tail)
  • Siri Hustvedt (American) — The Blazing World (Sceptre)
  • Howard Jacobson (British) — J (Jonathan Cape)
  • Paul Kingsnorth (British) — The Wake (Unbound)
  • David Mitchell (British) — The Bone Clocks (Sceptre)
  • Neel Mukherjee (British) — The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus)
  • David Nicholls (British) — Us (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Joseph O’Neill (Irish/American) — The Dog (Fourth Estate)
  • Richard Powers (American) — Orfeo  (Atlantic Books)
  • Ali Smith (British) — How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Niall Williams (Irish) — History of the Rain (Bloomsbury)

Organizers said the shortlist will released September 9 at Man Group, the British investment firm that sponsors the prize, with the winner announced at a black tie event on October 14. For those who find value in competitions that judge literature  — I am dubious, though I see the need to spotlight books deemed worthy in the annual flood of words —  The Man Booker is, arguably, the world’s most prestigious literary prize after the Nobel.

Shortlisted authors receive £2,500 and a specially-bound edition of their book, said the organization in a press release. The winner receives £50,000 “and can expect overnight fame and international recognition, not to mention a significant increase in book sales.”

The Man Booker press release quoted 2013 winner Eleanor Catton on the benefits: “I’ve been given opportunities to travel and to see my book read by such an astonishingly wide readership all over the world.”
— Deborah Jones
*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 
Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Also tagged |