If you want to tap into the most cutting edge fiction today, the Goldsmiths Prize (now in its fifth year) is one to watch. It was started in 2013 by Goldsmiths, a university in south London and the prize seeks to celebrate creative daring, reward fiction that breaks the mould and extends the possibilities of the novel form. Obviously, like any prize, it’s subjective. This isn’t a definitive list of all the excitingly experimental things being published today, but it gives a good guideline and it’s become one of my favourite prizes since past winners Eimear McBride’s “A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing”, Ali Smith’s “How to be Both”, Kevin Barry’s “Beatlebone” and Mike McCormack’s “Solar Bones” count among some of my favourite novels in recent years. And isn’t it funny that the previous two winners are both Irishmen who have the word “bone” in their book titles? Those Irish are so morbid! Ha!
I’ve read four of this year’s six shortlisted novels. I really admired both Sara Baume’s “A Line Made by Walking” and Nicola Barker’s “H(A)PPY”. I had very mixed feelings reading Jon McGregor’s “Reservoir 13” but in reflection I’ve found it a really moving novel and I’d be eager to read it again. I’m as baffled about what’s so good about Gwendoline Riley’s “First Love” now as I was when it was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction earlier this year. It made me angry how withholding the narrative of this novel felt, but obviously others appreciate it much more. I’ve heard mixed things about Will Self’s novel “Phone” but I’ve appreciated his fiction in the past and I’m eager to read it. I hadn’t heard of “Playing Possum” by Kevin Davey before this prize and I love it when book prizes introduce me to writers’ work I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.
You can also watch me discuss my thoughts about the shortlist and experimental fiction here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKbujRtyLWg
What do you think of the list? Do you like experimental fiction? Are you intrigued to read any of the books from the shortlist? It’s difficult to say, but I’m betting that “Reservoir 13” or “A Line Made by Walking” will win. Do you have a prediction?