As it happens, though, my score was low. Only Alan Hollinghurst and - a dark horse this - D J Taylor's Derby Day were on both lists. My first feeling upon looking at the real Man Booker longlist was bafflement. Who on earth were all these people? I hadn't heard of half of them. In a sense, Man Booker judges can never get it right. Too many established names and they're playing safe, not enough and they look wilfully out of touch.
Then I started looking at who was left off, and my bafflement increased. Justin Cartwright has bad luck with the Booker and Other People's Money sadly didn't buck the trend. But it took several reads of the list to realise that the unthinkable had happened. Yes, they really had overlooked Edward St Aubyn's At Last, the novel around which a steady buzz has been growing ever since publication a few months ago to rapturous reviews. Andrew Miller's Pure is another notable omission. There's no Ali Smith, John Burnside, Philip Hensher, Helen Oyeyemi, Amitav Ghosh...
My first Tweeted responses to the list (I was still in shock) were met with a few how-can-you-criticise-before-you've-read-them-all comments. Well, for one thing, the Man Booker longlist is published in order to boost sales and create word of mouth. While it might be nice if there were a three-week comment moritorium while we diligently work our way through all 13 titles, meanwhile, back in the real world... And obviously it's legitimate to comment on books that we have read, found brilliant, and which we feel have been mysteriously snubbed.
It's been noted that there are four debuts on the list, and books from several independent publishers, who god knows, need a boost. I'm sure the judges are aware that the Man Booker is not a best first novel prize, or a prize for plucky independents, or a Fairy Godmother, 'with one tap of the wand I can make you famous' prize. It is for literary quality, and only literary quality. With that in mind, if all the longlisted books are as good as At Last we are in for a glorious booky summer.
Here's my own list of thirteen:
The Death of Eli Gold by David Baddiel
The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress by Beryl Bainbridge
Other People's Money by Justin Cartwright
The Blue Book by A L Kennedy
Gillespie & I by Jane Harris
The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
Childish Loves by Ben Markovits
Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar
Pure by Andrew Miller
There but for the by Ali Smith
At Last by Edward St Aubyn
The Knife Drawer by Padrika Tarrant
Derby Day by D J Taylor
It's open to the accusation that they are mostly established names, but then they're established for a reason. Of course it reflects my own reading, making this a neatly circular exercise: these are the sort of books I pick out, and therefore, I like them... The benefit of judging any prize is the way it takes you out of your literary comfort zone - the only way we find new stuff, after all.
Nevertheless, I think this is a pretty good list. And if I were to come up with a shortlist, St Aubyn, Bainbridge (provided the deceased are eligible) and Miller would be on it: three concise and contrasting pieces of artistry that represent the very best of British fiction.