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Ferris's wheel of fortune

Ferris's wheel of fortune

Joshua Ferris's disappointment at missing out on the Man Booker Prize this year should be a little lighter this week. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour has just won the International Dylan Thomas Prize and, what's more, he pipped last year's Man Booker winner, Eleanor Catton, in the process. The prize is awarded to the ‘best literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under’ – marking the age Thomas was when he died. Catton at 28 is a mere stripling and can come again. Ferris, however, has got there in the nick of time: he turns/turned (depending on when you read this) 40 on 8th November. The prize is worth a hefty £30,000 and Ferris seems far too sensible a chap to do a Dylan Thomas and spend it all in Fitzrovian pubs.

Will Self, Man Booker shortlisted in 2012 for Umbrella, is no stranger to substance abuse. Or, according to a recent list of ‘The top five most scathing book reviews’, of disabusing authors of their pretensions. The list included swingeing reviews of Keats’s Endymion, Dorothy Parker eviscerating The House at Pooh Corner and a thorough duffing-up of Wuthering Heights. Into this august company fits Self's defenestration of Julie Burchill's Unchosen. It starts: ‘I can’t really dignify her latest offering with the ascription ‘book’, nor the contents therein as “writing” – rather they are sophomoric, hammy effusions, wrongheaded, rancorous and pathetically self-aggrandising,’ and goes downhill from there. In an age when the reviewer's default position is politeness, Self's astringency is bracing. Unless you are Ms Burchill of course.

Good news for Paul Kingsnorth, Man Booker longlisted for The Wake. The book, detailing the years after the Norman invasion and written in his own version of Anglo-Saxon, was deemed by many unpublishable. That it did see the light of day was through the crowd-sourcing publishers Unbound. One of the 400 good (and prescient) souls who stumped up cash to help was the actor Mark Rylance. Rylance has now gone one stage further and bought the film option for the book. He will play the central figure, Buccmaster of Holland. Rylance said that ‘Paul Kingsnorth has recreated the Norman invasion of England so vividly; I immediately wanted to see and hear a filmed version. His visceral language and thrilling story telling should translate into something as original as the book.’ Kingsnorth's response?: ‘This is literally a dream come true.’

As any fule kno, Hilary Mantel is a formidable force. So the bigwigs at the BBC had better take note when she fires a shot across their bows. Wolf Hall, her 2009 Man Booker winner, is being filmed as a six-part television series to be aired next year. She worries that the makers might deem the proliferation of Thomases and Marys too confusing for the viewers and start simplifying things: ‘As soon as you decide this is too complicated for the viewer, or history is an inconvenient shape and can’t we just tidy it up a bit, then you fall into a cascade of errors which ends in nonsense.’ Thomas Cromwell fell afoul of a monarch and met a grisly end. Hilary Mantel is MB royalty. BBC beware.

Man Booker International 2015 judges, Marina Warner, Nadeem Aslam, Elleke Boehmer and Wen-chin Ouyang  were in Abu Dhabi this week to take part in a series of events at NYUAD’s new Saadiyat Island campus. The public event on 4 November explored the theme of World Literature, with a lively, engaged audience from the university and the city. The staff and student body is incredibly diverse, coming from every part of the globe, and the judges also held seminars with the faculty, research fellows and undergraduates. Marina Warner and Wen-chin Ouyang shared their expertise about the Arabian Nights. The judges rounded off a day of meetings with a visit to a buzzy Abu Dhabi Art Fair.