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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Booker judge hails writing talent
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Rowan Pelling
Ms Pelling defended the absence of well-known authors
One of this year's Booker Prize judges has spoken of the "pulsating" calibre of writers on the 22-strong longlist.

Rowan Pelling defended the absence of big-name authors and said judges had made their choices based on "passion".

"We knocked out books that we liked and admired in a calm way," said Ms Pelling, a literary columnist and editor of The Erotic Review.

The books will be whittled down to a shortlist of six next month, and the 50,000 winner announced in October.

Describing the 22 listed books as "accomplished", Ms Pelling said the prize had a responsibility to reward literary excellence.

It's not enough to say it's terribly enjoyable, although there are a lot of enjoyable books here
Rowan Pelling

"You can't treat it lightly and that's why it's important that you look for that kernel of passion," she said.

"It's something that changes authors' lives. People have spent up to 10 years writing these books and you can't rain on their parade."

She said the prize - Britain's most prestigious literary award - was not designed to honour everyday fiction such as so-called "chick-lit" novels.

"There's a lot of quibbling about what a literary novel is," she said. "It should be at the high end of fiction."


"It's not enough to say it's terribly enjoyable, although there are a lot of enjoyable books here."

Ms Pelling pointed out that books by high-profile authors such as Louis de Bernieres, VS Naipaul and Jeanette Winterson had not made the final cut.

"Some hotly anticipated books were most disappointing. They're not rubbish, but there will be question marks (in the media) about their omission."

She said a good novel had "originality, passion, beautiful writing (and) something that goes straight to the heart".

A longlist was necessary because it was more representative of the state of English literature than the shortlist, which was "more grown up and less exciting".

"The inclusion of a lot of first-time novelists shows how pulsating the new guard of British writers is," she said.

"We have some substantial writers who will be the big names for the next 10 years."

Booker longlist ignores big names
26 Aug 04  |  Entertainment

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