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Man Booker Prize selections: Americans dominate the longlist

Marilynne Robinson, a novelist who was shortlisted for the Man Booker International prize in 2011 and 2013, is on the longlist with her novel 'Lila.' She's one of several American writers to make the cut.

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    Lila,
    by Marilynne Robinson,
    Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
    272 pp.
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The longlist for the Man Booker Prize is out and Americans dominate the list.

It is the second year that what has been called the world's most prestigious fiction prize is open to American writers. Already five of them appear among the 13 longlisted authors: Laila Lalami ("The Moor's Account"); Bill Clegg ("Did You Ever Have a Family"); Marilynne Robinson ("Lila"); Anne Tyler ("A Spool of Blue Thread"); and Hanya Yanagihara ("A Little Life").

The list includes three British authors: Sunjeev Sahota ("The Year of the Runaways"), Tom McCarthy ("Satin Island"), and Andrew O’Hagen ("The Illuminations"). McCarthy and O'Hagen have appeared on the shortlist before.

The 2007 Man Booker Prize winner Anne Enright is also on the list with "The Green Road" as well as two debut novelists, Chigozie Obioma from Nigeria with "The Fishermen" and Anna Smaill from New Zealand with "The Chimes."

The shortlist of six books will be announced on September 15.

Since 2014, Man Booker Prize has been open to all writers in the English language who is published in the UK, regardless of country of origin. The decision, which was made in 2013, sparked criticism among those in favor of the prize being only open for British, Irish, and Commonwealth authors published in the UK.

“It’s rather like a British company being taken over by some worldwide conglomerate,” Melvyn Bragg, an author and television host in Britain, told The New York Times in September 2013.

Around the same time, Philip Hensher, English novelist and author of nine novels, wrote in The Guardian:

No writer embarks on a career with any illusions that the world owes them a living. But I don't think I've ever heard so many novelists say, as over the last two or three days, "Well, we might as well just give up, then."

The Australian writer Peter Carey, who won the Booker prize twice, said in October 2014 that the previous Booker Prize had a “a real Commonwealth culture” that would now be lost. “The old Booker had a particular cultural flavour,” he explained. “The Pulitzer and the National Book awards have their sorts of flavours. I suppose I’m not generally in love with the notion of global marketing.”

Some of those opposed to the expansion of Man Booker Prize say American novelists already get enough recognition.

Susanna Rustin from The Guardian noted in October 2014 that the globalization of the prize will narrow the horizons. “American publishing already has, in the Pulitzers and National Book Critics Circle, internationally prestigious awards,” she argued. “The danger for books by unknown writers who come from and write about less familiar places is that they never find a toehold in the marketplace.”

But there are those who think the problem is not American inclusion, but the reappearing of the same names on the Booker Prize list.

“It’s been depressing to see the same bunch of predictable, predominantly English novelists nominated time and again: Carey, McEwan, Byatt, Barnes,” Colin Dickey, an American author, said in October 2014. “What I learned from the Booker Prize so many years ago was that what mattered in a novel was a writer’s singularity of voice and vision, not country of origin. So if it takes looking to the United States to find the next Keri Hulme, I’m all for it.”

And Gaby Wood wrote in September 2013 in The Telegraph that there is nothing to fear. “The work now being produced by those already eligible for the Man Booker easily stands up against the work of their American contemporaries,” she said.

But Ms. Wood’s explanation was followed with a question as well: “Why shouldn’t Britons then be eligible for American prizes?”

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