Man Booker Prize longlist announced

Barnes, Hollinghurst and four debut novelists make it on to the list

The Man Booker longlist always sparks debate in the publishing world. This year will be no exception as a combination of established and new authors are included on the list. Julian Barnes and Sebastian Barry, despite both being shortlisted twice, have never won, while Alan Hollinghurst - longlisted for The Stranger's Child - won only two years ago for The Line of Beauty. The four debut authors are Stephen Kelman, A.D. Miller, Yvvette Edwards and Patrick McGuinness.

The full list is as follows:

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape - Random House)
Sebastian Barry, On Canaan's Side (Faber)
Carol Birch, Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books)
Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers (Granta)
Esi Edugyan, Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail - Profile)
Yvvette Edwards, A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld)
Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger's Child (Picador - Pan Macmillan)
Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)
Patrick McGuinness, The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books)
A.D. Miller, Snowdrops (Atlantic)
Alison Pick, Far to Go (Headline Review)
Jane Rogers, The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press)
D.J. Taylor, Derby Day (Chatto & Windus - Random House)

Chair of judges, Dame Stella Rimington, has commented that, "We are delighted by the quality and breadth of our longlist...[which] ranges from the Wild West to multi-ethnic London via post-Cold War Moscow and Bucharest, and includes four first novels." The shortlist of six authors will be announced on Tuesday 6 September at a press conference at Man Group's London headquarters. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 18 October.

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Why Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes were a real horror couple

BBC Radio 4's My Muse sees Kathryn Williams explore the eerie side of Plath's life.

The first in a three-part series in which artists describe the figures that have most inspired them (Mondays, 4pm) followed the English singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams as she went, first, on a pilgrimage to Sylvia Plath’s grave and later to a favourite spot of the poet’s atop Parliament Hill. Williams has written an album devoted to Plath and we heard bits from it – but those weren’t the moments that conjured up the poet. It was when Williams approached the grave in Heptonstall, West Yorkshire – and thunder clapped from nowhere as she reached the headstone (with its inscription from the Chinese: “Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted”) – that this story really got going. “It’s baking hot,” she croaked, “and there’s thunder behind me!”

Occasionally we heard Plath herself reading from poems, talking in that Katharine Hepburnish way, a way you can’t quite believe she spoke in actual life, oddly decelerated and lustrous, slowing into a relentless and deeply uncanny imperiousness. Then, just as Williams visited the bench on Parliament Hill where Plath sat wretchedly after a miscarriage in 1961, a rat ran past her feet. “Wow! Look! What is going on?” By now both presenter and programme were deep into the boding mood that Plath can put you – the sort of mood where you’re bound to meet a million portents and omens. Someone mentioned a woman who thought she saw a picture of herself in the newspaper one day . . . and only after some time did she realise that it was Sylvia.

A more spooky Plath-Hughes ­experience you couldn’t make up. Both poets, masters of the harbinger. Sylvia pulling the worms off her body (“like sticky pearls”) after coming to, following a childhood suicide attempt, lying in a nook under the ­family house. Ted with his horoscopes and his dreams, recalling the howling of wolves in the aftermath of Sylvia’s death (London Zoo was just down the road from him). They were the great horror-writing couple: it is an abashingly real element, vital to their appeal. “Need”, “want”, “an addictive pull”, “moon” and “sea” – those were the sorts of words Williams used in speaking about Plath, in her kind and curious Liverpudlian voice, and with her songwriter’s noticing eye. 

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser