The Long Take — Robin Robertson

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While I don’t think it will win, I am really glad that The Long Take made the shortlist. This year’s longlist contained two books using less conventional media: Sabrina was a mediocre graphic novel and The Long Take is largely verse. In the past, I sense Booker judges have been reluctant to shortlist books with less mainstream appeal. A case in point would be the utterly superb The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth, which failed to move past the longlist in 2014 despite being better than a good half of those that did.

The Long Take tells the story of Walker, a Scottish WWII veteran suffering from PTSD, trying to make a living in America. The story is a fascinating blend of the internal and external, using the verse to show Walker’s thoughts and experience, while drawing heavily on cinema and the real world setting, as well as using the occasional photography to explore America’s post-war boom. It is to the recurring theme of American cinema that the book owes its title.

At no point was I moved in reading The Long Take. I never truly engaged with Walker or the surrounding characters. But I admired it for its achievement and would love to see more work in its mold. Moreover, in drawing attention to a highly acclaimed but little known poet’s first novel (quasi-novel?), I think the Booker is performing an important service for British literature, an essential part of its mission from conception.

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