As a general rule, I don’t cheerlead for people I’ve written about. But I’ll allow myself this: hats off, again, to Howard Jacobson, whose novel "The Finkler Question" was shortlisted today for the Man Booker Prize. Jacobson, one of Britain’s most respected and funniest writers, did an interview with me a couple of weeks ago. "The Finkler Question" — about two widowed Jewish men, and a third who thinks he’s Jewish — was just then put on the long-list, and I was hoping to catch him between then and today’s Sept. 7 date, when the shortlist would be announced. Today the prize committee narrowed that long list of 12 down to six, and "Finkler" made it.
The book is still not out in America, but when I interviewed Jacobson two Fridays ago, he said that that morning, in England, Bloomsbury USA had agreed to publish it. Anyone’s guess, though, when that will actually be. Some of Jacobson’s books — namely, "Kalooki Nights," a Holocaust satire — have sold well in the U.S. But given his prominent status in England, it’s a publishing world mystery why American readers (or is it, publishers?) haven’t quite taken to him.
There are some signs that "Finkler" might do well here this time, however. Mainly, that Jacobson’s competition for the Booker, which includes Peter Carey’s "Parrot and Olivier in America," Tom McCarthy’s "C", and (on the long list) David Mitchell’s "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet", have all have recently come out in the U.S. and received stellar reviews. I’ve already got to "Parrot and Olivier" and can indeed attest that the competition for Jacobson is stiff. But here’s hoping that Jacobson–whose been nominated three times, but never won; and Carey, who’s won the Booker twice–comes out ahead.