The Man Booker Longlist, or When Did I Stop Reading?

The longlist for the Man Booker prize was announced yesterday. In case you missed it, here are the novels that were longlisted:

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
Summertime by J. M. Coetzee
The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds
How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
Me Cheeta by James Lever
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
Not Untrue & Not Unkind by Ed O'Loughlin
Heliopolis by James Scudamore
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Love and Summer by William Trevor
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

I have a pretty good history with the Booker prize list. I've enjoyed the winners and usually had read a few of the nominees or at least knew something about the books. Not so this year. Don't get me wrong. I know who A.S. Byatt and Coetzee are. And I'm familiar with Colm Toibin and Sarah Waters. And that Heliopolis title rings a bell. But that's it. I'm basically out of the loop. If it's not on Facebook or written in 140 characters or fewer, I probably haven't read it.

Of course, I'm exaggerating. In fact, I'm reading Middlesex right now. And I just picked up The Elegance of the Hedgehog from my local library (SUPPORT YOUR LIBRARIES!!) What kind of reader am I, though, if I'm reading something that most people read six or seven years ago. I mean, Oprah read it for Christ's sake. As for Elegance, well, let's not count that chicken before it's hatched. I haven't even opened the book yet. So when did I stop reading? And why?

It's too easy to get distracted. The internet, Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, and don't get me started on television. It's trash, but I watch it. And watch it and watch it. Add to that going out to great restaurants and watching a movie now and then and hanging out with friends and WORK! There goes my week.

Then again, I always found time in the past. Maybe I've changed. Perhaps I've lost my ability to pay attention for any length of time--although I did watch all five episodes of Torchwood: Children of Earth (excellent, by the way). Or, can I just blame the books? Very little has "spoken" to me recently. Sputnik Sweetheart may have been the last novel I devoured. I've been "reading" Animal's People for a year now. Let's face it: I'm not finishing that one. Before that, I got caught up in some science fiction by Dan Simmons. So enjoyable, so fat-free.

I need a story, with characters, sprawling and dramatic and funny and odd. Which takes me back to Middlesex. I'm enjoying it a great deal. With luck, it will help break this dry spell. Until then, as always, recommendations are appreciated and I'll see you on Twitter.


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