Tuesday, October 23, 2012

James Tait Black Prize

Britain's oldest literary award is doing a "best of" competition. The six chosen novels are:

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
A Disaffection by James Kelman
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips
The Mandlebaum Gate by Muriel Spark

I must admit, it seems a most curious list to me. Presumably, it's only novels that previously won the annual prize which can be nominated. That's the only reason for the selection of some of these novels. Many people like, even love The Road, but I think you'd be hard-pushed to find any McCarthy scholar who rated it his best. Similarly, The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene? And Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter.

As for James Kelman, although I'm a fellow Scot I've never been able to see the appeal. If you want a Scottish novel, look no further than the scandalously under-rated Lanark by Alasdair Gray.

However, it's always the way of these shortlists that some smartarse like me comes along and says "I wouldn't have chosen that..." So roll on the announcement, in December.

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