September 18, 2021

American writers Patricia Lockwood, Richard Powers and Maggie Shipstead make $86K Booker Prize shortlist


Three Americans — Patricia Lockwood, Richard Powers and Maggie Shipstead — are among the six titles shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize.

The £50,000 ($28,474.25 Cdn) award annually recognizes the best original novel written in the English language and published in the U.K. 

In 2014, the prize expanded its eligibility to include international writers. It had originally only been open to writers from the Commonwealth, Ireland and South Africa.

Lockwood is nominated for her debut novel, No One is Talking About This.

No One is Talking About This is about an influencer who gains fame and a dedicated following online, but is tormented by existential thoughts. She must confront everything she thinks she knows when her real life and her online life collide.

Lockwood is also the author of the poetry collections Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals and the memoir Priestdaddy.

Powers is making his second appearance on the Booker Prize shortlist. He is nominated in 2021 for Bewilderment.

Bewilderment is about a single father who is an astrobiologist and wholly dedicated to helping his troubled nine-year-old son.

Powers was previously nominated in 2018 for his novel The Overstory. The Overstory also won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Shipstead is nominated for the novel Great Circle.

Great Circle is about an iconic female aviator, Marian Graves, and how her life surprisingly intersects with the life of an actor named Hadley Baxter, who is cast to play Marian in a biopic of her life decades later.

Shipstead is also the author of the novels Seating Arrangements and Astonish Me.

Rounding out the six-book shortlist is A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam, The Promise by Damon Galgut and The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed.

A Passage North is about a man who makes the pilgrimage home to Sri Lanka to attend a family funeral in the wake of the country’s 30-year civil war. Arudpragasam is a Sri Lankan Tamil novelist. He is also the author of the novel The Story of a Brief Marriage.

The Promise is about a troubled white family living during apartheid in South Africa. All their issues come to the forefront as the family prepares for a funeral. Galgut is a South African writer. He began his publishing career at 17, with the novel Sinless Season. His other books include Small Circle of Beings, The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs, The Quarry, The Good Doctor, The Impostor and In a Strange Room.

Galgut was previously shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2003 for The Good Doctor and 2010 for In a Strange Room.

The Fortune Men is a novel about a petty criminal who, after being wrongly convicted of murder, becomes the last man hung in Cardiff in 1952. Mohamed is a British Somali writer — the first to ever be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She is also the author of the novels Black Mamba Boy and The Orchard of Lost Souls

“With so many ambitious and intelligent books before us, the judges engaged in rich discussions not only about the qualities of any given title, but often about the purpose of fiction itself. We are pleased to present a shortlist that delivers as wide a range of original stories as it does voices and styles,” jury chair Maya Jasanoff said in a statement.

“While each book is immersive in itself, together they are an expansive demonstration of what fiction is doing today.”

The jury chose the longlist and shortlist from 158 submitted titles.

The 2021 jury is comprised of American Harvard professor Jasonoff, British theological writer and scholar Dr. Rowan Williams, Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma, British actor Natascha McElhone and British journalist Horatia Harrod.

The winner will be announced on Nov. 3, 2021.

Two Canadians made 13-book longlist

Two Canadian writers had made the longlist: Ontario writer Mary Lawson for A Town Called Solace and British Canadian writer Rachel Cusk for Second Place

A Town Called Solace is a novel told from three different perspectives: Clara, a young woman who sits at her window, waiting for her missing sister to return home, Liam, Clara’s new neighbour who Clara watches with suspicion and Mrs. Orchard, the old woman who owns the house Liam is staying in. As their stories unfold, so does the mystery of what happened to Clara’s sister and how Mrs. Orchard and Liam are connected.

Lawson is an acclaimed novelist who grew up in Ontario and now lives in the U.K. Her other novels include Crow LakeThe Other Side of the Bridge and Road EndsCrow Lake won the Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

Second Place is a novel about a woman who invites a famous artist to her remote coastal town. She hopes that his vision and talent will change her life, and her perspective on things. What unfolds is a study of humanity, beauty and connection, as the novel explores how our internal and external lives are connected.

Cusk is a Canadian-born novelist who lives in the U.K. She is best known for her Outline trilogy, which includes the novels Outline, Transit and Kudos. Both Outline and Transit were shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

Last year’s winner was Scottish writer Douglas Stuart for his novel Shuggie Bain.

Margaret Atwood shared the 2019 prize with British novelist Bernardine Evaristo. Atwood was recognized for her novel The Testaments, and Evaristo for her novel Girl, Woman, OtherThey split the prize money evenly.

Atwood also won the prize in 2000, for the novel The Blind Assassin.

Two other Canadians other than Atwood have won the prize since its inception in 1969: Michael Ondaatje in 1992 for The English Patient and Yann Martel in 2002 for Life of Pi.





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