Putting the Odds on Eric Gamalinda
Bookies in London had been betting on almost anything and anybody, even the Man Booker Prize winners. These bookies don't go out there and read the books of the finalists. They rely on newspaper accounts and reviews, probably. But they hardly do that. They decide instead on the reputations of these finalists and maybe asking the critics, who would they choose?
The Man Asian Literary Prize don't have bookies going gaga maybe because there are no bettors. The Philippines should be interested. Miguel Syjuco's Illustrado won last year. There were two Filipino finalists last year with Krip Yuson as the other one. Now we only have Eric Gamalinda, now New York-based, to pin our hopes to. Three of the finalists this year are Indians: Omair Ahmad, Siddharth Chowdhury and Nitasha Kaul, the only woman among the five. The other finalist is Su Tong. Going by reputation, Su is the man to beat. He is prolific with six novels and one of his novellas was turned into an Oscar Award winning film, Raise the Red Lantern. Going against him, if we go with a bookie's penchant for novelty, is that the 2007 winner was Jiang Rong, a Chinese. If we also go by that mentality, Gamalinda would have a small chance. But despite his modest claims, Gamalinda is a good novelist. His novel, My Sad Republic, won the Philippine Centennial Prize. We had five Filipinos in the shortlist this year, all capable of winning. But if we treat the Man Asian as a boxing fight, we really had it bad. The judges this year are Gish Jen, Pankaj Mishra and Colm Toibin. One Chinese-American, one Indian and Toibin is Irish, the most Pinoy of the UK. He is also based in New York like Gamalinda so maybe we can sway him to us.
Now with the Indians. Despite not winning for the first two years, they won the Man Booker Prize last year with Aravin Adiga's The White Tiger. They have the numbers, 3/5. Hmmmm.
Fortunately, this is a literary game. It's how good your novel is or, as often the case, how prepared you are with your book. Some of my friends last year actually had to rush their novel in time with the deadline. I mean, three weeks to finish your novel? Did Gamalinda also had to rush his novel. I hope not. Are we going to do a Pacquiao in the literary scene? I hope so.