Saturday, 4 April 2009

Man Booker Prize bibliography

I have now completed the Philip Pullman bibliography, and have now decided to start work on a Man Booker Prize bibliography. This will be an ongoing project, depending on time availability, so don't hold your breath! I will aim to give a little information about each book, with first edition points and comments where appropriate. Any comments or corrections from readers welcome!



Something to Answer For.
PH Newby, Faber and Faber, London, 1968. Available relatively easily in its orange boards and orange dustwrapper, although copies are typically several hundred pounds at present. Top end signed copy £1250.

The first winner of the Prize was by a writer who was also managing director of BBC radio. His books are now little remembered or read, but Something to Answer For , which is set in Egypt, goes down in history as the winner of the inaugral Booker Prize.

"It was 1956 and he was in Port Said. About these two facts Townrow was reasonably certain. He had been summoned there, to Egypt, by the widow of his deceased friend, Elie Khoury. Having been found dead in the street, she is convinced he was murdered, but nobody seems to agree with her. What of Leah Strauss, the mistress? And of the invading British paratroops? Only an Englishman, surely, would take for granted that the British would have behaved themselves. In this weirdly disorientating world, Townrow is forced towards a re-examination of the basic rules by which he has been living his life; and into a realization that he too may have something to answer for."


Figures in a Landscape.
Barry England, Cape, London, 1968. Easy to find at less than £20.
Figures in a landscape was a first novel, and the author has since published only one other, in 1997, although he has written a number of plays. Two professional soldiers, Ansell and MacConnachie, have escaped from a column of prisoners of war in an unnamed country in the tropics. Safety across the border lies 400 miles away; in the meantime, they must make their way through alien territory, battling the climate and the terrain as well as the enemy's soldiers and helicopters. Reviews at the time described the novel as a thriller - it has been recently suggested that Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith was the first thriller to get a listing for the Booker prize in 2008, so it seems that Figures in a Landscape remains largely forgotten even by the literary establishment.

The Impossible Object. Nicholas Mosley, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1968. Should be aasy to find at less than £20.
Nicholas Mosley is a member of a famous family, son of Oswald Mosley and daughter of Diana Mitford, and half brother of Max Mosley. He was born in 1927, and Impossible Object is probably the best known of his books. The book was a somewhat controversial nomination, as it consists of a number of separate but connected stories, rather than taking traditional novel form. Eight carefully connected stories are joined by introspective interludes on related subjects. The author pursues the notion, through the lives of a couple seen by different narrators, that "those who like unhappy ends can have them, and those who don't will have to look for them." The impossible object of the title, "the triangle that can exist in two dimensions but not in three," is a controlling symbol for the impossibility of realizing the good life unless one recognizes the impossibility of attaining it: only then can it be possible to realize it, through a kind of renunciation, especially in "a sophisticated, corrupt, chaotic world." The book was hailed by the critics when published as brilliant, insightful, intense, and moving, but especially original.

The Nice and the Good. Iris Murdoch, Chatto & Windus, London, 1968. Available easily, for around £20 or less.
This was Iris Murdoch's eleventh novel, in the middle of a long and successful career. Therefore the print run was relatively large, and copies of the original edition are widely available. Opening with a suicide at a government office, The Nice and the Good plunges the reader into a novel that explores the many aspects of love including obsession, disinterest and the secrets that individuals keep from one another. The novel revolves around the entanglements, secrets and relationships of one extended household. John Ducane, who has been given the task of investigating Radeechy's suicide, is involved with two women. One is a young woman named Jessica, who is obsessed with him and manipulates him to continue their relationship. The second woman, Kate Gray, is the wife of his co-worker, Octavian, and they have embarked on a platonic relationship within the view of her husband and family. As the novel progresses, Ducane suffers growing anxiety over the investigation, guilt over his relationship with Jessica and fear that the women will learn about each other.

The Public Image. Muriel Spark, London, Macmillan, 1968. Readily available at less that £20.
Muriel Spark is perhaps best known for her 1961 novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but The Public Image was the first of two novels shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the second being Loitering with Intent in 1981. Shewas born Muriel Sarah Camberg in Edinburgh in 1918 to a Scottish father and an English mother. She was educated at the Edinburgh James Gillespie's School for Girls - an experience which undoubtedly inspired the representation of Edinburgh public school life in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. In 1937, Muriel Camberg married Sydney Oswald Spark and they had a son, Samuel, known as Robin. For several years of her marriage Spark lived in Central Africa. Spark's marriage later ended in divorce. During the Second World War, Spark was conscripted to the Political Intelligence Department of the British Foreign Office where she worked as a propagandist for the war effort. After the war she lived in London, where she began her literary career. She became General Secretary of The Poetry society, edited The Poetry Review 1947 -9 and wrote studies of Mary Shelley, John Masefield and the Bronte sisters. In 1952 she published her first book of poetry, a collection The Fanfarlo and Other Verse but it was her winning of the Observer prize for short fiction that finally inspired her to write fiction full-time. Her first published novel, The Comforters (1957), was written three years after Spark converted to Roman Catholicism and the novel was inspired by her studies on the Book of Job. Several critics agree that her religious conversion was the central event of her life. She write 22 novels in total and died at her home in Tuscany in April, 2006.
The Public Image is set in Rome and concerns Annabel Christopher, an up-and-coming film actress. Annabel carefully cultivates her image to keep her career on course, managing to mask her lack of talent. But she reckons without her husband Frederick's loathing of his wife's manipulations and inexplicable success for which he plans his final revenge.

From Scenes Like These. G.M. Williams, Secker & Warburg, 1968. Later paperback editions of this book are common. There is one copy of the US first edition currently available from 1969. The true UK first pictured here is exceptionally uncommon and value difficult to state. My copy cost me £10 from a charity bookshop, but a dealer would might look for a high three figure sum if a copy became available.
Gordon M. Williams is a scottish author, perhaps best known for his novel The Siege of Trencher's Farm, which was the basis of the film Straw Dogs.
From Scenes like these is set in a small west of Scotland town in the 1950's. Duncan Logan is an adolescent growing up fast in the austere years after the Second World War. His father is brutal, his life seems drab and pointless, and the future looks bleak. As his world begins to crumble around him, Duncan searches desperately for a way out, only to find himself trapped in a downward spiral of betrayal and violence.


Stevan said...

I just discovered your blog on the Man Booker Prize winners and shortlist. I look forward to future installments. You are doing a fine job on a worth topic. I am a Booker collector and have managed to acquire (with a great expenditure of time and money) first UK editions of every winner and shortlisted title since the inception of the prize in 1969. I think your estimated values on the rarer titles are conservative. For example, you opine that one might expect to pay a "three figure" sum for From Scenes Like These by Gordon Williams. One can expect to pay 3,000 pounds or more for a F/F copy of that title if one can find it available for sale. I am aware of such sales. Also, you note that a copy of The Conjunction by Terrence Wheeler has been offered for 1,250 GBP for some time with no takers. I believe that David Rees of Kestrel Books has that copy listed for sale, but I am aware that he sold a nicer copy than the one offered for 1,500 GBP. I do not offer these comments as a criticism of your excellent blog, but rather as (hopefully) constructive comments. As stated, I enjoy your blog very much and hope that you will continue it.

Trapnel said...

Many thanks! Progress has been slow due to lack of time, but I will keep working on it when I get a chance.

Your comments about value are very interesting, and suggest I may have underestimated some prices. This is certainly possible, expecially for the very uncommon books, where I suspect that fine condition makes a big difference. From Scenes like These is a good example - I currently have two copies, which together cost under £50. Bother are VG rather than F, but I am sure would have cost considerably more from a specialist dealer like Kestrel.

I am interested to hear that you have managed to acquire a full set of Booker novels, as I have also done. It is quite a challenge! I wonder how many more sets there are out there? Have you come across any other completeists? I have not collected the longlisted novels in more recent years - have you done so?