The shortlist was announced yesterday for a new literary prize - the Goldsmiths (as in the college). According to the press release "it will be awarded to fiction that breaks the mould and opens up new possibilities for the novel form. The annual prize of £10,000 will go to a book that is genuinely novel, and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterises the genre at its best."
That sounds promising, and the winner will be confirmed on November 13th. Let me blow my own trumpet because the shortlist includes Eimear McBride's A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. I happened to be the first person to review this brilliant novel (for the TLS, here). The author and her book are the subject of previous blogs - most recently here. I am, you'll gather, a fan.
Harvest by Jim Crace (also favourite to win the 2013 Booker) Very good this.
Red or Dead by David Peace (it's about football, and very long, so one to avoid. I don't get Peace)
Artful by Ali Smith (haven't read this but Ali Smith has never made much of an impression on me)
Exodus by Lars Iyer (have just ordered this and it comes highly recommended.)
Tapestry by Philip Terry (a period novel, telling the story of the Battle of Hastings from the perspective of a Bayeux Tapestry weaver. I'll reserve judgement - but if it's written even partially in the present historic sense I'll be the first to denounce it)
My money's on Eimear McBride because her's really is the most impressive first novel I've read in thirty years and deserves the widest possible audience.
Imagine being repeatedly slapped in the face, only quite lightly to begin with, by a delicate little hand wearing a large and ornate signet ring. You want to turn away, to lash out, to resist, but the little hand is so dogged, so persistent, and the ring has caught your eye, somehow, and you just want to study it, to focus in on it, because you know that it is strange and special and very beautiful. But as the little hand continues to slap it becomes more painful and your cheeks gradually start to sting and to redden. Is it a pleasurable feeling? No. Well, yes. Is it startling? Certainly. And afterwards? When it’s all finally over? The devastating bruises, spreading and flowering across your flesh in their terrible palate of blue, green, black, purple...
A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is at once the slap and the gasp after the slap. It is, in a single word, breathtaking.
Read more about McBride's spectacular arrival on the literary scene here.