My experience of reading through the Man Booker longlist last year was completely different from my progress so far this year. Last year, I had off a good chunk of time from work in August to plow through what I felt to be an excessive number of family sagas. This year, I have had zero time off due to the fact that my school has adopted a year round calendar. But my level of enthusiasm for this year's books is sharply higher than last year's list. There were some favorites in 2015, but also a lot of material that did not engage me. I felt a distanced admiration for the majority of the list. The conversation with the ladies was far more enjoyable than the actual reading.
So what have I read so far?
- The Sellout - I've read this twice now, and enjoyed it even more the second time. You may remember my enthusiasm for it during the Tournament of Books. It reaches the highest level of cultural sensitivity in its hilarious insensitivity. Do not bring your white liberal guilt to the table for this meal. There is no place setting for it.
- My Name is Lucy Barton - Read this one right before the release of the longlist. A spare and unsentimental treatment of family dysfunction and claiming a personal identity out of that rubble. Spot on. Not a crumb of saccharine in this slim novel.
- Eileen - I have every bit as much enthusiasm for this one as I do for The Sellout. There is a lot going on here but my main reading focus was on l'ecriture feminine (hard to escape that 1980s undergrad experience) - Eileen's escaping a past partially through testing the possibilities of her own body (in a few disgustingly exhilarating ways) and sexuality, weighing the conventional possibilities just behind her in the 1950s against the possibilities of reinvention.
- Hot Milk - Read this right after Eileen and loved for some of the same reasons especially when considered in light of this being about two women of different ages trapped, in part, by their own physicality.
- Serious Sweet - I said on Twitter yesterday that this turned out to be a disappointment. Some gorgeous, biting moments but overall bloated, messy. And the bits of Woolf homage annoyed me. I began to skim some sections about two thirds of the way through.
- The Many - But then I was saved from reader grumpiness by this one. I read it twice yesterday. Trevor summed up my own feelings beautifully here.
- Hystopia - In progress. Half done. Uneven. Reserving judgement until I reach the end.
So I am seven in with six to go and plenty of time on the clock. And feeling lots of admiration for four out of the seven read, and solid respect for another. If what is in front of me turns out as pleasing as what is behind me, arriving at a shortlist is going to be difficult for me. What have you read off the longlist? Favorites? Shaking your head over the inclusion of any title?