Despite being restricted to members of the British Commonwealth, the Man Booker Prize is a hell of a lot more prestigious than the Commonwealth Games is for sport. There are those who accuse it of being a B-league by omitting the United States and any number of non-Anglosphere countries, but it carries a remarkable amount of prestige, mainly because of the continued dominance of the United Kingdom in the literary world.
This year is a good one for Aussies, with locals Michelle de Kretser (for The Lost Dog) and Steve Toltz (for A Fraction of the Whole) both on the long list of 13. The odds aren’t good, however, with the bookies favouring Salman Rushdie, whose Midnight’s Children was recently acclaimed the best Booker winner ever.
The big surprise for the Australian industry is the omission of Helen Garner’s astonishing return to novel-writing, The Spare Room. Garner is one of the few “big name” Australian writers still residing here rather than in the UK or USA. In that sense, she’s clearly “one of ours” in a way that Carey or Pierre or Coetzee aren’t.
Of course, the Booker judges aren’t so interested in national pride and literature is (fortunately) less jingoistic than sport. I still can’t help cheering on one of my own.