Longlist Announced for the Gordon Burn Prize 2021

It seems lately that there is a different literary prize longlist announced every week, but one of my favourites is the Gordon Burn Prize. I’m a huge fan of Gordon Burn’s writing and the work that ends up on this longlist is always interesting and exciting.

Gordon Burn was the author of four novels, Alma Cogan (winner of the Whitbread First Novel Prize), Fullalove, The North of England Home Service and Born Yesterday. He was also the author of the non-fiction titles Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s SonPocket MoneyHappy Like Murderers, On The Way to Work (with Damien Hirst) and Best and Edwards. His last book,before his untimely death at 61 was Sex & Violence, Death and Silence, a collection of his essays on art.

Gordon Burn belonged, and felt himself to belong, to an American tradition born in the High Sixties. A lover of Capote, Mailer and New Journalism, in his career as a writer, Gordon applied the rigour and tenacity of a reporter and journalist to what was often a fictional template.

A literary polymath, Gordon Burn wrote about subjects as seemingly disparate as serial killers, celebrity, sport and art, often blurring the line between fact and fiction. He carved out a unique place for himself in contemporary British writing, often responding to real, spectacular, sometimes appalling events.

The Gordon Burn Prize, founded in 2012, remembers the late author and as well as a £5,000 award, the winner has the chance to undertake a writing retreat of up to three months at Gordon Burn’s cottage in Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders.

The Prize recognises literature that is forward-thinking and fearless in its ambition and execution, often playing with style, pushing boundaries, crossing genres or challenging readers’ expectations.

This year’s judges are Denise Mina a former winner of the prize and this year’s chair; literary journalist and editor Sian Cain, novelist and short story writer Irenosen Okojie, and writer and poet Derek Owusu. They have produced a longlist which is as diverse and eclectic as ever.

This year’s longlist features:

A Ghost in the Throat (Tramp Press), Doireann Ní Ghríofa

A Little Devil in America (Penguin Press), Hanif Abdurraqib

A River Called Time (Canongate), Courttia Newland

Come Join Our Disease (Faber), Sam Byers

Diary of a Film (Dialogue), Niven Govinden

In The End it Was All About Love (Rough Trade Books), Musa Okwonga

Klopp: My Liverpool Romance (Faber), Anthony Quinn

Luckenbooth (William Heinemann), Jenni Fagan

Mrs Death Misses Death (Canongate), Salena Godden

My Phantoms (Granta), Gwendoline Riley

Open Water (Viking), Caleb Azumah Nelson

Sea State (HarperCollins), Tabitha Lasley

I’ve already read three of the longlist, A Ghost in the Throat, My Phantoms and Mrs Death Misses Death. I’ve also started Luckenbooth and have copies of Open Water and Diary of a Film.

Of the ones I haven’t read, the most appealing to me is Sea Change by Tabitha Lasley, her extraordinary account of the lives of offshore oil workers and her personal relationship with one of them which I’m definitely going to check out.

Have you read any of this longlist? Are there any you would recommend? The winner of the Gordon Burn Prize will be announced in October 2021.


Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

26 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Somehow I was unaware of this prize! And I didn’t know Burn’s name either. The “experimental” label can make me nervous, but actually I’ve read three of these, A Ghost in the Throat, Mrs Death Misses Death, and Open Water. Either of the first two would be deserving winners, in my opinion.


  2. Luckenbooth sounds amazing! ive had my eye on it ever since it came out but it hasnt been released in north america (yet)…i might check out one of jenni fagan’s other books though 😊


  3. I’ve never heard of this prize – the list looks amazing! What did you think of A Ghost in the Throat? (Ignore this if you’ve already reviewed it – I’m going to have a look!)


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