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Baltimore novelist Anne Tyler longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize

Baltimore novelist Anne Tyler.
Baltimore novelist Anne Tyler. (Michael Lionstar / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore novelist Anne Tyler has been longlisted for arguably the world's second-most coveted literary award -- the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

Tyler, recognized for her 20th novel, "A Spool of Blue Thread," was one of 13 authors, including five Americans, announced Wednesday to be in competition for the honor. The winner will receive 50,000 British pounds, or a bit more than $78,000 in U.S. dollars.

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The longlist was winnowed from 156 candidates. Michael Wood, chairman of the five-judge panel, said in a news release that all 13 nominees "do something exciting with the language they have chosen to use," and added: "We had a great time choosing this list. Discussions weren't always peaceful, but they were always very friendly."

The shortlist of six finalist books will be released on Sept. 15. The winner will be announced on Oct. 13 in a ceremony that will be broadcast on the BBC.

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Tyler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tyler and the other dozen authors on the longlist will receive 2,500 British pounds (just under $4,000 U.S.) plus a specially bound copy of their books. In addition, merely making the Booker  long list is an literary stamp of merit with the potential to boost book sales.

In "A Spool of Blue Thread," Tyler tackles old age and mortality head on.

The novel tells the story of Red and Abby Whitshank, a couple in their 70s. Red Whitshank has already had a heart attack and is semi-retired from the family construction business. His wife, Abby, is experiencing occasional mental lapses so worrisome that the couple's four adult children decide their parents no longer can live alone.

"Spool" travels back and forth in time from the 1920s to the present and from Hampden to Roland Park, weaving stories of Red's parents and of his and Abby's four adult children. The title is a metaphor for the family, which binds together distinct and opinionated individuals half against their wills.

This is only the second year that Americans have been considered for the prize, which previously was open only to novelists from the United Kingdom, the nations comprising the British Commonwealth, Ireland and Zimbabwe.

Four Americans were nominated in 2014, though the prize ultimately went to Australian Richard Flanagan.

In addition to Tyler, the other Americans to make the longlist this year are Marilynne Robinson ("Lila"); Bill Clegg ("Did You Ever Have a Family"); Laila Lalami ("The Moor's Account") and Hanya Yanagihara ("A Little Life").

A sixth nominee, Marlon James ("A Brief History of Seven Killings") was born in Jamaica and currently lives in America.

The remaining nominees on the longlist are: the Irish author and previous Booker winner Anne Enright's "The Green Road"; United Kingdom novelists Tom McCarthy's "Satin Island", Andrew O'Hagan's "The Illuminations" and Sunjeev Sahota's "The Year of the Runaways"; Nigeria's Chigozie Obioma for "The Fishermen"; India's Anuradha Roy for "Sleeping On Jupiter" and Anna Smaill of New Zealand for "The Chimes."

Tyler, 73, previously won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction -- the top literary award in the U.S. -- for her 11th novel, "Breathing Lessons," in 1989. Her 10th novel, "The Accidental Tourist" was made into a major motion picture starring Geena Davis and William Hurt and was partially filmed in Baltimore. Five of her other novels have been adapted for television.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

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