The Green Carnation Prize longlist for 2013 is a diverse and literary one, writes Christopher Bryant, Polari‘s editor and one of this year’s judges.
The longlist for the Green Carnation Prize is announced today, 1 October 2013. It is a challenging, diverse and decidedly literary selection.
This international LGBT Writers’ prize features 5 judges. I am one of the judges on the 2013 team along with bookseller Sarah Henshaw, and authors Kerry Hudson & Clayton Littlewood. The chair of judges is Gay’s The Word bookseller Uli Lenart. (For further information about the judges, take a look at The Green Carnation Prize website.) The Prize’s co-founder, Simon Savidge, the author of Savidge Reads, has been our guide and Honorary Director.
The Prize was decided using agreed-upon criteria – originality, excellence, readability and resonance. Uli Lenart has written a lucid account of how this works on The Green Carnation website.
Here are the 12 books on the longlist, with the authors in alphabetical order.
Gob’s Grief: Chris Adrian
Gob’s Grief is a bold novel about loss that is set in the years after the American Civil War. Gob and his brother Tomo rush off to war, and Tomo is soon killed. Gob is distraught with grief, and he determines to bring Tomo back to life. Adrian’s recreation of the Reconstruction era, and the reshaping of the American political landscape, is astounding. His bravura in recreating Walt Whitman as a character instrumental to the narrative is fearless and brilliant. Gob’s Grief is an unusual, exceptional book that is part history, part magical realism, and part cyberpunk.
Five Star Billionaire: Tash Aw
Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw is a rich, complex tale set in modern day Shanghai. It tells the stories of five characters, each one striving to be a success in a fast-paced capitalist environment. Over the lives of each hangs the shadow of the Five Star Billionaire himself, whether he is there in person, or through the pages of his self-improvement books. This is a book that explores how China is remaking itself under a new capitalism and the dangers inherent when dreams are informed by avarice.
Maggie & Me: Damian Barr
In Maggie & Me, Damian Barr recalls his childhood growing up on a council estate not far from Glasgow. In the background of every twist and turn is Maggie Thatcher, who is in the process of redefining Britain, and forcing change on the very fabric of Scottish industry. It’s a touching, heart warming and at times disconcerting look at an era that changed the country irrevocably.
Environmental Studies: Maureen Duffy
Maureen Duffy’s collection of poems Environmental Studies is a lyrical treat. Duffy’s meditations on modern life reach back into the classical past and her carefully chosen words illuminate the way we live with now with a passionate intensity. This is a magical, beguiling, virtuoso performance.
Fallen Land: Patrick Flanery
In Fallen Land, Patrick Flanery tells the story of a Midwest caught by the rhythms of the new corporate America yet informed by the frontier traditions of individualism. Paul Krovik is a man whose dream has failed. Louise Washington is an ancestral voice, who witnesses her farm repossessed after her husband dies. When Nathaniel, Julia and their son Copley move into Paul’s signature house, two worlds collide, and the rift at the heart of contemporary America threatens the lives of all the characters. This is a rich, ambitious and wide-ranging novel.
Black Bread, White Beer: Niven Govinden
Niven Govinden’s Black Bread, White Beer is a terse, economical portrayal of a marriage on the verge of breakdown. Amal is driving his wife Claud down to see her parents in the wake of a miscarriage. The failure of the two to communicate their pain to each other forces a crisis in which as the characters react to the situation based on assumptions and the misreading of others’ emotions. This is a devastating and powerful meditation on the crisis of the social media generation.
Almost English: Charlotte Mendelson
In Almost English, Charlotte Mendelson tells the story of Marina, who lives in West London with her mother, and her absent father’s idiosyncratic Hungarian family. It is a funny, riotous and endearing book, with beautifully drawn characters and a playful delight in the English language.
The Sea Inside: Philip Hoare
The Sea Inside is a beautiful meditation on the relationship between mankind and nature, between our lives and those that dwell in the deep blue sea. It is part memoir, part travelogue, and ranges across the world in search of the secrets of life as well as the great possibilities of which we are capable. This is a passionate and deeply lyrical work.
May We Be Forgiven: A.M. Homes
In May We Be Forgiven, A.M. Homes takes the reader on an intense journey through a year with Harry after his brother George kills a family in a car crash and loses his sanity. It is a powerful, audacious ride that is extremely funny and deeply heartbreaking. Harry’s transition from Nixon scholar to family man is a tale of absolution. It is a whirlwind of exceptional power.
The Kills: Richard House
The Kills is an ambitious novel made up of 4 interrelated books. It is a crime novel, a detective story, and a conspiracy tale that crosses time and continents. At the centre of the stories is Camp Liberty, codenamed the Massive in Iraq, which processes the waste from war and is turned into a covert military base. It is a thriller that plays unashamedly with genre and confounds expectations.
Fanny & Stella: Neil McKenna
Neil McKenna’s Fanny & Stella tells the tale of two men, Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton, who lived their lives as Fanny and Stella. Their exploits, when they are put on trial in 1870, threaten to expose a world hidden from the strict eyes of Victorian England. McKenna delights in his subjects, and he delights in the use of the English language. He tells the tale with the audacity and panache of a virtuoso storyteller.
Far From The Tree: Andrew Solomon
Far From The Tree is an outstanding look into the lives of children who are exceptionally different from their parents, children who have fallen far from the tree. From children who are deaf, or have Down’s Syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, to those who are prodigies or are born from rape, Solomon provides an exploration of divergent worlds and an insight into what it means to be different.