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New A.S. Byatt novel on Man Booker longlist

The Children's Book, A.S. Byatt's nearly 700 page exploration of the Edwardian "cult of childhood," is one of 13 works on the preliminary "longlist" for the British Commonwealth of Nations and Ireland's Man Booker Prize for Fiction, it was announced last month in London.  The panoramic novel traces the life of a prominent late Victorian fairy tale writer and children's author, her social circle, and the effect her progressive ideas have on her own seven children and one working class runaway who comes under her charge through the so-called "Edwardian summer" to the catastrophic slaughter of World War One and social and cultural upheaval of Europe in the Modernist era.
 
Byatt, who visits Buffalo on October 9th to launch the 2009-2010 Babel Series of readings at Kleinhans Music Hall, is one of two former winners on the Man Booker longlist.   The author, who was born Antonia Susan Drabble (her younger sister is novelist Margaret Drabble), but publishes using her first husband's surname, previously won for Possession: A Romance,  her remarkable 1990 novel that succeeded, however improbably, in making Victorian literary scholarship seem both intrigue-filled and sexy.

  
 
Joining Byatt on the Man Booker longlist are J.M. Coetzee, the South African born 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature winner and former (1968-1971) University at Buffalo English professor, who previously received the Man Booker prize in 1983 for the Life & Times of Michael K and again for Disgrace in 1999.  His soon-to-be published Summertime is the third installment in a series of fictionalized memoirs about the youth of the author written from the perspective of a fictitious biographer.  
 
Other notable titles on the Man Booker longlist are Love And Summer by four time nominee William Trevor, twice shortlisted Irish novelist Colm Tóibín's acclaimed Brooklyn, Samantha Harvey's so-called "Alzheimer's novel," The Wilderness, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, a historical novel about the skullduggery behind Henry VIII's Tudor court as told from the point of view of chief minister Thomas Cromwell, and, on a lighter note, Me Cheeta, James Lever's spoof of a celebrity autobiography in which he profiles the life of Tarzan's sidekick, the first chimp movie star.  The 2009 Man Booker "shortlist" of six finalists will be released on Tuesday, September 8th at a press conference at Man Group's London headquarters. 
 
The  winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize, which carries with it a cash award of 50,000 British pounds (currently approximately $83,000), will announced on Tuesday, October 6th at a dinner at London's Guildhall in a ceremony that will be broadcast live on BBC radio and television.  On that same day, the United States first edition of Byatt's The Children's Book will be published by Alfred A. Knopf.
 
In the meantime, you can read a recent interview with A S Byatt on The Children’s Book or learn more about the other The Man Booker Prize nominees and judging process at the same web site.

--R.D. Pohl

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