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All That Man Is
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Booker Prize for Fiction > 2016 Shortlist: All That Man Is

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message 1: by Trevor (last edited Jul 27, 2016 05:08AM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1859 comments Mod
All That Man Is, by David Szalay

All That Many Is

UK Publication Date: April 7, 2016
US Publication Date: October 4, 2016
448 pp

Here are nine men. Each of them is at a different stage in life, each of them is away from home, and each of them is striving - in the suburbs of Prague, in an over-developed Alpine village, beside a Belgian motorway, in a crap Cypriot hotel - to understand just what it means to be alive, here and now. Vibrating with detail and intelligence, pathos and surprise, All That Man Is is a portrait of contemporary manhood, contemporary Europe and contemporary life from a British writer of supreme gifts - the master of a new kind of realism.

message 2: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Have read a little of this and it looks tremendous thus far.

message 3: by Lascosas (new)

Lascosas | 456 comments The Booker is an award for novels, right? So obviously the author and publisher agreed to call this a novel instead of a short story collection, and it is on that basis that we, and the judges, need to analyze this book. The book is very well written, I found most of the, um, sections well constructed and emotionally quite powerful, especially since most are tightly contained, lacking an easy escape valve of a surprise ending. But the nine are individual stories with tiny elements connecting a couple of the stories and a strong tie between the first (about a grandson) and the last (about his granddad). So if I were to analyze, judge, this book as a short story collection, I would call it well written with a series of thoughtful stories. But it is not a short story collection, it is a novel. And I just don't see it as a particularly successful novel.

Each of the sections centers around a white European (including British) male. Each of the men are different ages, and the age goes up through the sections. All sections take place roughly in the present, and in each the main character is in a country different from his place of birth. What the men have in common (with the exception of the prick journalist) is a lack of certainty as to their place in the world. This uncertainty, disquiet, is a fog sitting over the entire novel, to the point where you are anticipating it in new segments before they have properly begun. But that isn't enough to pull the segments together, and the forced needle and thread in the last segment sewing granddad in the last chapter to the lad in the first seemed unnecessarily heavy handed. It merely highlights the lack of connection between the other stories.

message 4: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1859 comments Mod
I haven't started this yet (my wife says it arrived in today's mail), but I'm very intrigued by a book of this type -- a bit hard to classify as either a novel or short story collection, as those terms are conventionally defined -- being on the longlist. Personally, I think it's rather silly to limit the Booker to novels, though I don't mind. It's fiction "at its finest," and I'd be okay with them acknowledging that sometimes that is a short story collection . . . William Trevor's After Rain, for example? Ah well. Others' discussions of this has at least led me to Claire-Louise Bennett's Pond.

So, more "real" thoughts from me when I've actually read the book!

message 5: by Lascosas (new)

Lascosas | 456 comments Trevor,
I do understand your prospective. I think I'm being rather anal about all of this because I feel that more than usual, the judges have thrown lots of curveballs at us with this longlist, and I'm trying to find solid ground on which to make an objective comparison.

But I should add that I am very happy that the list is unusual and thought provoking.

message 6: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments I hadn't worked out the link between the first and last stories, I suppose because I didn't remember the names from the first story. Oh, did I say story? Yes, but I'm happy to see it as a novel. I do need to read the first "chapter" again now though, seeing as I missed the link. In all, I think this is an excellent book. Having now read three of the longlist and loving them all, I'm impressed with the judges. So far.

Jibran (marbles5) | 289 comments This is clearly a collection of short stories and they are not even interconnected (I have read five out of nine stories so far). Does the book's inclusion signal a change in Booker policy? I have never accepted the exclusion of shorts, which seems needlessly biased in favour of the longer form. A good, solid set of stories is better to read than a lazy novel any day. So I welcome the inclusion. Thanks.

message 8: by Carl (new)

Carl (catamite) | 137 comments It's strange though. Rules is rules and surely plenty of publishers didn't submit collections because of that rule. I think we need clarification. Im surprised no paper has probed it yet but perhaps they will if it gets shortlisted.

message 9: by Jibran (last edited Aug 11, 2016 06:35AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jibran (marbles5) | 289 comments Carl wrote: "It's strange though. Rules is rules and surely plenty of publishers didn't submit collections because of that rule. I think we need clarification. Im surprised no paper has probed it yet but perhap..."

Yes, they should make it clear if the shorts are henceforth in. I just hope they don't come up with a far-fetched explanation and try to justify it as a novel, such as on the basis of similar theme, urban settings et cetera. Many short story collections can be justified on a similar basis, especially interconnected stories.

David (goodreadscombooksniffer) | 27 comments I finished reading this this morning and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the final story about old age. But, oops, what am I saying, "final story"? Yes, I have to agree with others: this is unquestionably a collection of short stories. Thematically they are linked, but then so are many collections, and there are a couple of other links between some of them (the boy in the first story is the grandson of the man in the last; a yacht sighted off the coast of Croatia in one story plays a significant role in the subsequent story) but again, many collections are far more integrated without being passed off as novels (even "Olive Kitteridge" is to my mind primarily a collection of short stories).
I do find Szalay's idea of "all that man is" a bit depressing - at 40 I'm at the halfway point of the ages represented in the book and my life hasn't all been about the pursuit of sex and money (just as well really as I'd have failed miserably) but that seems to be what his menfolk all boil down to. But these are very well written and satisfying tales.

message 11: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments I agree.with you, David. While reading, I was thinking that the men I know are not represented in "all that man is". It's well written and each story is interesting though, so thumbs up from me.

I suppose it's as much of a novel as David Mitchell's Ghostwritten, which had only one small link from story to story.

message 12: by Antonomasia (new) - added it

Antonomasia | 2629 comments @Jibran - noticed you hadn't posted in the rankings thread yet. You don't have to have read all the books for that, only a minority of the people posting there will finish all of them. (If you dislike the idea of ranking books, of course that's fine too.)

Jibran (marbles5) | 289 comments Antonomasia wrote: "@Jibran - noticed you hadn't posted in the rankings thread yet. You don't have to have read all the books for that, only a minority of the people posting there will finish all of them."

I'd like to rank them. I thought I'd wait till I have read four or five books before posting in the rankings thread.

Of the three I've read, I'd like to see only this one, All That Man Is, to go to the shortlist, if only a bit reluctantly. I liked a couple of stories* better than others, and now that I have two more left to read, I think my final rating would fall short of the four stars I'd had in mind earlier. Szalay has done well to evoke the urban neo-realism (wouldn't call it noir but it comes off as noirish in some ways).

Each of the lead characters and their usually two secondary characters fight the monotony of urban existence by removing themselves from their surroundings and hitting the road, to paths less travelled, as a way of escape. They all share an interest in uninteresting places, and we meet them at a point in their lives when they are lost. But their escape is not meant as a final descent into oblivion but rather to fulfill the will to power, sometimes imperceptibly and subconsciously, by seeking it in things "Man" has always sought: sex, money and pleasure. Sexuality is central to each and every story (so far) and dialogue (well-executed) is central to understanding each character. Interesting set of stories of contemporary urban European life but not particularly insightful (admittedly, I'm hard to please)

* These shorts break the convention of an individual, single-chaptered short story. Each one is divided into four or five chapters, which might tempt some to call them novellas. How long a story should be to be called a novella (and a novella to be called a novel) is a question that remains undecided, let alone the question of form and structure.

Louise | 224 comments i found out I could get this as an ebook from my library, yay :-)
I'm not done yet, just some thoughts :-) I like the writing.

I must admit though that the focus on 'sex, money and pleasure' is usually something I associate with very young men - from the mid 30's on other things become (more?) important (kids, long-term partners, absorbing hobbies/sports, a meaningful career) - I certainly don't recognize any of the men I know who are in their 40's and 50''s in Szalay's writing. Those of you who have finished it - do you think David Szalay (32 y old I believe?) paints a credible portrait of 40+ men?

message 15: by Antonomasia (last edited Aug 12, 2016 05:40AM) (new) - added it

Antonomasia | 2629 comments How many of the older ones are divorced / no longer living with partner + kids?
I'd say that makes a significant difference in that age group - with the divorced guys there tends to be compartmentalisation of the two sides: time with the kids is sacred, but outside that, all sorts goes. (I'm not acquainted with any men currently of that age who CBA with their kids, but they evidently exist.)
But I think there is a general change in attitude often when people are just a bit older than Szalay, including among people who don't have their own kids - a big thing is realising one is now able to manage various things better than ageing parents, and becoming the generation responsible for practical decisions.

Louise | 224 comments Good point, I'm 39 and several of my friends already feel that the balance is shifting - now they're the ones helping their parents out with legal papers, IT-issues, health problems and practical things.

A lot of divorced couples here take turns having the kids for a week, so I guess that leaves the "free" week for a more outgoing lifestyle :-9

Jibran (marbles5) | 289 comments Louise wrote: "I certainly don't recognize any of the men I know who are in their 40's and 50''s in Szalay's writing. Those of you who have finished it - do you think David Szalay (32 y old I believe?) paints a credible portrait of 40+ men? "

I'm looking at it in terms of whether the characters and their stories are believable, and I think they are, whether or not I know people IRL who resemble these characters (some do, others don't). In any case, for me, believability rather than relatiability is a more important factor in fiction.

There aren't many 40+ men in the stories I have read anyway. The opening two stories are of two highschoolers and a uni dropout scolded by his family who goes to Cyprus; next is a Polish girl in her 20s, who goes to London to do sex work, the other about 32-year-old Oxford PhD student whose intellectual vocation does not match his drifter's lifestyle. Only one is about a 55-year-old Danish man, a senior minister in the government, who's having an affair with a married woman, and when tabloids reveal his secret his excuse is "but I'm divorced." He's a secondary character anyway, the story is about an ambitious 30-something journalist with a tough childhood who loves the power his tabloid jobs gives him over people like the minister.

Louise | 224 comments I havent read more than a 5th yet - I just assumed from the blurb saying: a portrait of 21st century Man and
"Tracing a dramatic arc from the spring of youth to the winter of old age"
that it meant to cover the whole cycle. And I always think it's interesting when younger authors write about characters with values and experiences they themselves are not yet aquainted with :-)

message 19: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1859 comments Mod
Lee's favorable review is up at The Mookse and the Gripes for those interested (here).

David Szalay’s All That Man Is is full of cluelessly randy lads, manchild rogues, and deathly careerists failing to understand (or care about) anyone else. As with Levy’s Hot Milk, the men here are a total washout. Szalay seems coldy amused / appalled but somewhat sympathetic about their grim plight and the inadequacies each blankly self-involved protagonist exhibits. The main triumph of the book, other than its chilly humour and mercilessly exposing men-skewering, is how Szalay renders the matter of empathy. Basically, he ignores it, trusting your sympathies will surely lean towards those blighted by their diminishment at the hands of such wretches. These characters repeatedly fail to escape their very narrow mindsets. Szalay makes the men in each of the stories not likeable as much as fascinatingly, often excruciatingly, hopeless, and puts all his money on your being horribly intrigued by them. Your level of immersion in All That Man Is will probably depend on how much wincing enjoyment you take from their struggles, and the heedless mess they make of everything.

Louise | 224 comments I think the last story #9- Old man in Italy - has so much more depth and scope than the rest of the stories. It certainly gave the book a nudge up on my list :-)

Matthias | 52 comments I do think this book can qualify as a novel. Besides the obvious link between the chapters (increasingly older male protagonists in love), in each chapter has a subtheme of failure. So the rather abstract "person" we are following through the book is that of a failure to love. In each chapter, that "love" resigns in face of an inevitable end. I also liked how tight each chapter is composed - with very few sentences, Szalay creates convincing portraits. I suspect that the book will rise in my ranking in the next few weeks.

Louise | 224 comments Well Matthias - your literary tastes are approved for sure! Another fan of Hotzenplotz/Runkeldunk! :-) :-) (I browsed your bookshelves).

message 23: by Doug (new) - rated it 3 stars

Doug Although I enjoyed more than half of these stories, I don't really think it qualifies as a 'novel', even stretching the boundaries of the definition of such. Therefore, whoever submitted it to the Bookers has massive cojones! There ARE some recurring themes and motifs (Park Lane, Iron Man 3, kebabs, rain, etc.), but not enough to unify the disparate threads of the nine lives the stories examine. That said, the writing is fluid, the stories mostly swift moving and interesting, but the palette seems woefully limited in scope for something that presents itself as 'All That Man Is'.

message 24: by Dan (new)

Dan I've long since abandoned trying to parse the Booker rules: who's a Commonwealth author and who's not? what's a novel and what's not? As a devoted reader of short fiction, I'm glad that All That Man Is was included on the longlist, and I hope that it bodes well for other novels—or perhaps short story collections—in the future. Their usual absence from the Bookers in the past has deprived some wonderful authors from receiving all of the attention and monetary rewards that they deserve.

In any case, after this rant, I'll add that I recently finished All That Man Is, and I think that it compares well to other titles that I've read from this somewhat lackluster longlist. I suspect that memories of All That Man Is will remain with me, although somewhat uncomfortably: was that and is that really me that Szalay writes about?

message 25: by Antonomasia (new) - added it

Antonomasia | 2629 comments I'm surprised how highly most people rank this one. I don't think it's bad, and I rather enjoyed it, but aside from a few unusual features, a lot of it seemed to me like very standard literary fiction stuff. Not especially substantial - which is not helped by the shortness of engagement with each protagonist / world.

MisterHobgoblin All That Man Is appears to be a collection of short stories, each focusing on a male character from one of a variety of European countries who happens to be – or to be going – to a different European country. The lead characters are progressively older in each story, ranging from a British pre-University student behaving badly on an inter-railing trip through to a British grandfather seeing out his final years in the less fashionable part of Italy.

All That Man Is has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, meaning that someone, somewhere thought this was a novel. I don’t see it myself; there is no continuity of narrative thread. At a stretch, I guess one could say that it is the story of human life illustrated in a number of discrete and unrelated episodes – and very sharp-eyed readers may spot the occasional detail in one story that is referenced in another – but this really is about as typical a collection of short stories as you will want to find.

The collection is highly readable and some of the stories do linger in the memory. In particular, the middle aged failures stick in the mind – a British rake who lives a hand to mouth existence in an inland Croatian town whilst pretending to be a playboy; and a Russian oligarch watching his empire crumble from the deck of a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean.

Most of the stories do not have much in the way of an ending. They capture a moment in time but any resolution that they might reach – and some do not even manage that – will be unsatisfactory. Perhaps that is a metaphor for life.

And as can happen with collections of themed stories, they can sometimes feel a bit samey. Having everyone travelling abroad was interesting at first but it got old quite quickly. Ultimately they all seemed to boil down to men looking for (and finding) sex. That may be all David Szalay's men are, but I like to think there's more to me.

message 27: by Paul (last edited Sep 20, 2016 12:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10322 comments Can't help feel the author's original title "Europa" may have worked better than "All that Man Is", as the obvious response is that no, these characters aren't all that man is. Although, to be fair, Szalay seems to mean by the title that the men in his stories often realise that this (their current situation) may be all their own life is.

"His member nodding, his lungs pulling at the air, it seems that there is nothing else to him, that that is all he is."

"This is it. This is his life, these things that are happening. This is all there is."

As to whether this is a novel, I can't help but think of Nursie from Blackadder:

"You were nearly a novel my little cherry pip. Yes. Out you popped, out of your author's tumkin, and everyones shouting: “It’s a novel, it’s a novel!” And then someone said: “But it hasn’t got recurrent characters and a story arc!” And then I said: “A novel without recurrent characters and a story arc? God be praised, it’s a miracle. A novel without recurrent characters and a story arc!” And then Sir Thomas More pointed out that a novel without recurrent characters and a story arc is a short story collection. And everyone was really disappointed."

message 28: by Ang (last edited Sep 20, 2016 01:04AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments That's a great Blackadder quote, Paul.

I think some are taking the title too literally. I'm pretty sure the author does not purport that these stories represent "all that man is".

message 29: by Carl (new)

Carl (catamite) | 137 comments Great quote.

I haven't read it yet but I think it's a major error that this is being considered for the Booker. If this can be then any short story can be, surely.

message 30: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee I don't want to assume too much, but then again, it's fun to do so: I don't think this will win the Booker. I think the judges will sidestep the controversy entirely; were they ever likely to plump for this I think the 'is it even a novel?' issue will play on a few minds to a fatal degree. It's not a novel (the sameyness amongst the protagonists does not bridge the gap), and until short stories are permitted eligibility I can't imagine the current judges would want to besmirch their tenure with such controversy.

Karen (bookertalk) | 41 comments i have the same issue that you do - because the stories are not connected and I don't see an over-arching theme I don't view this as a novel.

message 32: by Paul (last edited Sep 21, 2016 12:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10322 comments The author himself clearly thinks it is a novel, and he was saying that pre the longlisting so I think it is not just retrospective Booker justification.

Although his rather odd rationale in this article is what prompted my Blackadder quotes.

Having said that I actually rather like the book and it is not exactly the only shortlisted book with some idiosyncrasies.

And as short-story collections go, this is the sort I'm happy to see competing vs. novels since the book can be read and judged as a coherent whole. I'd contrast that with. say, the Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector from the BTBA which was a 600 page+ anthology of every thing she'd written (80+ stories) over a lifetime, a book that wasn't even published in that form in the original Portuguese.

Worth also saying that what, in part due to the title, can be seen as a flaw, the lack of variety in the male characters, adds to the coherence of the stories. In one sense there is one common character through the stories - the dissatisfied white international European male - just represented in different lives.

Very impressed at the end with the way the final character is reading The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, itself an excellent book and where, inter alia, the author suggests the first world war was in part due to a crisis of European masculinity.

message 33: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Whether it is or is not a novel, I fancy the following scenario may come into play. Swap Roy for Thien and MacLaverty for Szalay...

"In 1997, the decision to award Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things proved controversial. Carmen Callil, chair of the previous year's Booker judges, called it an 'execrable' book and said on television that it shouldn't even have been on the shortlist. Booker Prize chairman Martyn Goff said Roy won because nobody objected, following the rejection by the judges of Bernard MacLaverty's shortlisted book due to their dismissal of him as 'a wonderful short-story writer and that Grace Notes was three short stories strung together.'"

Paul: in which case surely any story collection could be modified to include a handful of recurrent motifs/reference points and then be rightfully considered a novel? The sameyness of the central male character is not currency in terms of validating the book as wholly cohesive. It more likely means the author was playing one note across all pieces. I thoroughly enjoyed the book but a lot of the stuff being put forward as merit-worthy are the same things about All That Man Is that I found to be its weaknesses.

message 34: by Trudie (last edited Sep 21, 2016 04:55AM) (new)

Trudie (trudieb) I have not read "The God of Small Things" but 'execrable' seems harsh...nice Booker history there though.
Interesting, to see that since then it has proven popular with many readers, I think GR has it on a high 3.9 rating. Does that mean judges can be wrong ;)

message 35: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10322 comments Lee wrote: "Whether it is or is not a novel, I fancy the following scenario may come into play. Swap Roy for Thien and MacLaverty for Szalay..."

If there is an "execrable" book on the shortlist - and there is - it isn't Thien's, but I won't start that discussion again :-)

I agree it isn't a novel and as such shouldn't be on the Booker list according to the rules.

Was just contrasting with other awards that do permit short stories collection to compete - e.g. BTBA - where Lispector's book was to me unjudgeable vs novels (does one judge the best story, the worst, assess the average of all 80+?), whereas I think the judges. and us, can judge this one as a whole.

Incidentally the "they are all one character so it is a novel argument" is, I should have said, Szalay's own

"I think it’s important to stress that, varied as they are, the nine central characters of the book form, as it were, a sort of single composite protagonist. (As one of them puts it, in his earthy way, ‘We all think we’re special – we’re all the f****** same.’) This is one of the main reasons why I regard the book as a novel and not as a collection of stories."

(my usual censorship - what is it with this year's crowd and the f word - are they all 11?)

message 36: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Trudie: Yes, 'execrable' is harsh, and the novel in question is surely not that bad...can judges be wrong? You betcha! Often!

Paul: Indeed, insert your own hated book in the Roy spot!

I think Szalay is on a very sticky wicket there all round. And I honestly don't believe for a second that his original concept of any of the pieces had a novel endgame in mind. If that were the case, why not have characters cross paths a la Altman's re-imagining of Carver? Very easily imposed/introduced, and would've killed any argument.

message 37: by Paul (last edited Sep 21, 2016 06:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10322 comments Lee wrote: "And I honestly don't believe for a second that his original concept of any of the pieces had a novel endgame in mind.."

Well he does seem to believe he has reinvented the novel form as a radical new concept - which the rest of us already know as a collection of short stories. And oddly some characters do reoccur - but from his previous novels (eg the real estate salesman features in Spring).

message 38: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee He's fooling no-one, we hope...

message 39: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1859 comments Mod
Lee wrote: "He's fooling no-one, we hope..."

Yikes! I hope he doesn't seriously think what he's done here is unique and groundbreaking. Kind of puts me off of him in general if that's the scope of his ignorance of his own heritage.

message 40: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10322 comments Trevor wrote: "Lee wrote: "He's fooling no-one, we hope..."

Yikes! I hope he doesn't seriously think what he's done here is unique and groundbreaking. Kind of puts me off of him in general if that's the scope of..."

I'm being a little unfair of course.

But I come back to the Nursie quote - he does say he wanted to write a novel without the need to keep up one story arc, keep the same characters throughout, fill out their stories etc. And does insist it is still a novel.

Did he just say that to be Booker eligible? I don't think so, although Lee is, not unreasonably, I think more cynical.

Odd thing is I still would be happier to see this win that three of the other shortlisted novels.

message 41: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1859 comments Mod
Since it was submitted (and longlisted and shortlisted), I hope the judges worry not a bit about what it is, so I'm certainly not against its winning (or against short story collections being eligible, but that's another issue).

message 42: by Nigeyb (last edited Sep 28, 2016 09:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb I have nearly finished All That Man Is - just the last two stories to go - and (just like London and the South-East the other book I have read by David Szalay) I am loving it.

I have really enjoyed reading other readers' musings on this book in this thread - so much so I joined the group to add this comment. Thanks all.

The question of whether a series can ever amount to a novel is an interesting one....

The themes: time, ageing, purpose, life in an increasingly globalised Europe, mindfulness, and probably others I've yet to spot, all thematically link the stories. There is also something approaching a dramatic arc given that story one is about teenagers and the final story is about old age. In a sense the aggregate effect is of an adult life.

Is that sufficient for All That Man Is to qualify as a novel? The Booker judges must think so and, I think, overall I am happy for it to be included, not least because I think it's wonderful.

I'll add some more musings once I've finished.

Thanks again.

message 43: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10322 comments Still sounds to be like a linked short story collection, which is a perfectly respectable and well established genre.

The Booker rules themselves though say only "Every submitted novel must be a unified and substantial work" and if one ignores the word novel (a big if) then it certainly ticks the unified and substantial work box.

(on the other hand there are 143 words - 14 times as many - to define what published in UK means)

Ultimately though I am happy for it to be included as well, although wonder how many other similar books down the years haven't been submitted / have been rejected e.g. Pond, my favourite UK published English book in the last year.

message 44: by Carl (new)

Carl (catamite) | 137 comments I don't think it should be allowed. If this can be then lots of Helen Simpson's work (for example) should also have been eligible. I think they should clarify the rules.

message 46: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1859 comments Mod
James Wood reviews the book in this week's New Yorker. I haven't read the review yet so I don't know where he lands. I'd link to it, but then I'd have to go to the New Yorker website, which I don't like and which is quite stingy. You can google it.

message 47: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee He lands in the 'very favourable camp', ending with:

"After several hundred pages of great brilliance and brutal simplicity, here at last is a deeper picture of all that man is, or all that he might be."

I think Wood's losing it a bit. If there's any great brilliance here I missed it, as much as I enjoyed the book. I thought it was artfully done and wonderfully readable but very low-aim achievement.

message 48: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 10322 comments All That Man is has just won the Gordon Burn Prize, an interesting if lowish profile UK prize that pits fiction vs. non-fiction.

"The Gordon Burn Prize seeks to reward a published title (fiction or non-fiction) written in the English language, which in the opinion of the judges most successfully represents the spirit and sensibility of Gordon's literary methods: novels which dare to enter history and interrogate the past; writers of non-fiction brave enough to recast characters and historical events to create a new and vivid reality. Literature which challenges perceived notions of genre and makes us think again about just what it is that we are reading."

Eileen was also on the shortlist. The judges concluded:

“Keeping Gordon Burn’s fiction and nonfiction in the back of our minds allowed us some real terms of reference in our necessarily subjective evaluation. As a result, in the final session, David Szalay’s All That Man Is emerged fairly swiftly as a frontrunner. It is a novel – like Gordon’s fiction – that subtly changes the way you look at the contemporary world. A very rare effect, in fact. In addition, it is darkly funny, marvellously observant and written with a confidence and limpidity that make it a really remarkable novel.”

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