“2014 National Book Award & Man Booker Prize: American Writers?”

For the first time in the going on fifty year history of The Man Booker Prize, novels from writers who are not citizens of The United Kingdom are being considered for the award, along with the prestigious circular imprint that increases sales over seas and at home in the United States. Historically, The Man Booker has been considered one of the most prestigious, maybe even the most relevant award for the talented writers that call the UK their home. In September of last year, the committee announced that the award would now span the globe if the novel was published in English in the UK. Despite the impending controversy that it caused about the integrity of the award, the move certainly reaches out to American readers even more than it did previously.

Besides the Pulitzer Prize, American literary writers surely covet The National Book Award as the most prestigious, just as writers from the UK value The Man Booker Prize. Certainly the expansion of The Man Booker opens the curtain to what critics across the sea consider to be a great novel written by an American writer.

The long list for The Man Booker Prize was recently trimmed down to six. Among the original thirteen novels, four of those were written by American writersL: Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World, Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and a couple of more familiar names, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris, and Orfeo by The National Book award winning author, Richard Powers. Ferris and Fowler made the final six.

The National Book Award long list includes ten novels, but only Orfeo crosses over between the two prizes. Surely, Powers is an easy pick as his latest novel is every bit as good as his award winning 2006 novel, The Echo Maker, but what about the rest? American critics and UK critics obviously differ on opinions about the basis of an award winning novel with the revealing of the lists.

The Man Booker impressively bestowed over a quarter of its nominations to American writers. The National Book Award has a list of books that resemble a quality award list, with Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See being my favorite to claim the prize, but remiss of arguably the greatest novel from one of The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40, Joshua Ferris, and Karen Joy Fowler’s transcendence from genre fiction to her remarkable We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is worth noting.

What exactly is it that each committee is searching for to be considered for a prestigious prize? The answer differs on a yearly basis, but it is interesting that both of these prizes are now evaluating novels written by citizens of America, and the lists are quite different.

Will an American writer win The Man Booker in the first year that they are eligible? A third of the short list is on their side with the results scheduled to be announced on October 13th. The National Book Award short list has not yet been released, but none of the novels will mirror the short list of The Man Booker. The only certainty is that an American writer will not win both prizes. With that being said, is the integrity of The National Book Award in question now that The Man Booker Prize encompasses a larger group of writers? Which prize is more prestigious and important to American fiction writers with this new development in effect?

Complete lists of the nominees can be found on each of the two prizes respective websites.

Steven Petite

About Steven Petite

Steven Petite received his Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Cleveland State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Publishing Studies at Southeastern Louisiana University. His journalism has appeared in Playboy, Huffington Post, Crixeo, Ranker, New York Game Critics Circle, and others. His fiction has appeared in Cigale Literary Magazine. He can be reached at stevenpetite@gmail.com.