- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 7, 2010

LONDON (AP) - Australian writer Peter Carey moved closer to a literary hat trick Tuesday when he was named a finalist for fiction’s prestigious Booker Prize, an award he has already won twice.

Carey’s “Parrot and Olivier in America” _ a U.S. odyssey inspired by philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville _ is one of six contenders for the 50,000-pound ($77,000) prize, which guarantees a glut of media attention and a big boost in sales.

Carey took home Bookers in 1988 for “Oscar and Lucinda” and in 2001 for “True History of the Kelly Gang.” He would be the first writer to win the prize three times, but is considered a long shot.

The early favorite, according to bookmaker William Hill, is British writer Tom McCarthy, whose wildly experimental “C” _ the story of a technology-obssessed 20th-century everyman _ has drawn comparisons to James Joyce.

William Hill made McCarthy the 2-1 favorite, and offered 5-1 odds on a Carey win.

For rival bookmaker Ladrokes, the favorite is Irish writer Emma Donoghue for “Room,” the story of a boy and his mother held captive in a garden shed. The book has drawn criticism from some who see parallels with the real-life case of Austria’s Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter locked in a basement for more than two decades.

Donoghue has said her book was “triggered,” rather than inspired, by the Fritzl case.

The other finalists are “In a Strange Room” by South Africa’s Damon Galgut, a previous Booker finalist; philosophical comedy “The Finkler Question” by Britain’s Howard Jacobson; and “Small Island” author Andrea Levy’s “The Long Song,” the story of a slave on a 19th-century Jamaican sugar plantation,

Former poet laureate Andrew Motion, who is chairing the judging panel, said the six books “demonstrate a rich variety of styles and themes _ while in every case providing deep individual pleasures.”

The winner will be announced at a ceremony in London on Oct. 12.

The run-up to the prize always comes with reams of speculation _ and a flurry of bets. Graham Sharpe of William Hill said gamblers place 1 million pounds in bets on literary prizes each year, with the Booker the most popular of these events.

The company offered 3-1 odds on a win by Donoghue or Galgut, with Levy at 7-1 and Jacobson the 8-1 outsider.

Jonathan Ruppin of Foyles book store chain said it was hard to predict a winner, “but if pushed, I’d suggest Emma Donoghue.”

“It’s a book which has captured people’s imaginations: it puts ordinary people into an extraordinary situation, but it remains believable at all times, even with the challenge of putting a child character at its heart.”

The Booker is open to writers from Britain, Ireland or the Commonwealth of former British colonies.

The prize was founded in 1969 and is officially called the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services conglomerate Man Group PLC.

___

On the Net: http://www.themanbookerprize.com