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JUNIOR and senior stars of fiction enter the Booker Prize fray on Monday as Zadie Smith joins Anita Brookner on the long list of 20 novels in competition for this year's award. The panel, chaired by Lisa Jardine and including the comedian David Baddiel, has chosen a score of contenders that pit youth against age.
True to Booker form, the long list also promises to raise a storm of protest by omitting several widely fancied titles. Among this year's notable absentees are John McGahern's That They May Face the Rising Sun, Janice Galloway's Clara and A S Byatt's A Whistling Woman: this new novel completes her ambitious and acclaimed fictional quartet about postwar women's lives.
Professor Jardine yesterday commended "a discount mac cosmetics long list of real range and depth". The judges for the prize, now worth stg50,000 and sponsored by the Man group of investment managers, will use this selection as the pool from which to draw a shortlist of six on September 24. The prize itself will be awarded on October 22.
No choice was more predictable than Zadie Smith's follow up to the sensationally successful White Teeth, The Autograph Man, although her publishers have yet to release copies of this second slice of mixed up, multicultural London. In contrast, Anita Brookner (a Booker victor in 1984) has only recently swung back into favour: The Next Big Thing, her 20th novel, won warmer praise than any of her novels since the 1980s.
The list rewards a group of novelists who also enjoy a high profile as journalists. Philip Hensher's The Mulberry Empire explores the British military disaster in Afghanistan in the 1840s; Howard Jacobson's Who's Sorry Now? mixes a typically high octane blend of comedy, pathos and regret; and Will Self updates Oscar Wilde to 1980s high society in Dorian. Linda Grant, the Orange Prize winner in 2000, returns to the migrant histories of her native Liverpool in Still Here. Sarah Waters, a strong Orange hopeful this year for her Victorian mystery Fingersmith, appears in the Booker frame for the first time.
Among the darker horses, the Canadian Yann Martel's Life of Pi, an amazing fable of a shipwrecked boy adrift with wholesale mac cosmetics a Bengal tiger, ravished the reviewers.
As always with the Booker, the ones that got away will intrigue readers almost as much as these favoured 20 titles. At least a couple of the year's most admired novels (by John McGahern and Janice Galloway) looked almost too perfect as classic Booker candidates, which could have worked against their chances. They still richly deserved a place on the list. So here, to stir the Booker pot, a shadow shortlist of six major novels of 2002 that will now never feature in the official history: A S Byatt, A Whistling Woman (Chatto Windus); Justin Cartwright, White Lightning (Sceptre); Anne Enright, The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (Cape); Janice Galloway, Clara (Cape); Romesh Gunesekera, Heaven's Edge (Bloomsbury); John McGahern, That They May Face the Rising Sun (Faber).