A time for genre-defying novels

The Man Booker Prize shortlist includes a book in verse and stories on dystopian themes
The shortlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards, includes for the first time a novel told in verse. The book, The Long Take , by poet Robin Robertson, mixes verse, prose and photographs to follow the story of a Second World War veteran across the United States in the golden era of Hollywood. One of the judges, feminist critic and writer Jacqueline Rose, described it as “a genre-defying novel” that “offers a wholly unique literary voice and form.” The judges said they realised that its inclusion on the shortlist was likely to set off a debate, but they said its style had not come up in their discussions. Val McDermid, a crime writer, praised its characters, language and the insight it gave into the world. “I’m not sure what else a novel is meant to do,” she said. Kwame Anthony Appiah, chairman of the judges, said the six-book shortlist was most notable for the bleakness of its subjects, among them ecological destruction, prison life, institutional racism and slavery.
“People reading our books 100 years from now would know that we live in dark times,” Mr. Appiah said. “The dominant theme of the novel in English today is of our species, and sometimes the other species with which we share this small planet, challenged by anxiety, suffering from pain, and of our institutions and environment under threat.” Hope comes in the quality of the writing and the fearlessness of the authors in tackling such subjects, he said.
“Reading these has not left me in a state of depression,” Ms. McDermid said, adding that some of the books also offered “moments of toe-curling hilarity.”
In addition to Ms. Robertson, the shortlist includes: Anna Burns for Milkman , an experimental novel that looks at Ireland in the time of the Troubles through the eyes of a young girl; Esi Edugyan for the novel Washington Black , in which an enslaved boy and his master’s brother flee a plantation in Barbados and forge an unlikely bond; Daisy Johnson for her debut novel, Everything Under , in which a reunited mother and daughter delve into their eerie past; Rachel Kushner forThe Mars Room , a darkly comic novel set in a women’s correctional facility in California and Richard Powers for the ecological epic The Overstory , about nine strangers trying to save one of the world’s last areas of virgin forest. They were chosen over longlisted novels from Michael Ondaatje, who won the Booker in 1992, and acclaimed Irish novelist Sally Rooney. Also failing to make the cut was Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina , the first graphic novel to be longlisted for the prize.
Originally called the Booker-McConnell Prize, the Booker was first awarded in 1969. It was renamed in 2002, when an investment firm, Man Group, became the primary sponsor. The prize has been stuck in a debate for years about whether American authors should be eligible. In 2013, the rules were changed to allow any author writing in English to win. It was previously limited to writers from Britain, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Commonwealth countries.NY TIMES
Source :  https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/a-time-for-genre-defying-novels/article25001130.ece

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