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Buy a book, save a shop

Buy a book, save a shop

David Nicholls, Man Booker longlisted in 2014 for Us, has long had a second distinguished career as a screenwriter (One Day, Starter for 10, Great Expectations). His latest project is the adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd with Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene, Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel Oak and Tom Sturridge as Sargeant Troy. The film, which looks as though it will be rather luscious, opens on 1 May. Nicholls though hasn't been swept away by the Tinseltown stuff and has found the time to remind people that books are worth cherishing. Nicholls is a former bookseller and so knows what he is talking about. During a speech at the London Book Fair he lamented the demise of high-street bookhops: ‘I still feel a town without a bookshop is missing something.’ Online book buying does no one (except the digital retailers) any favours: ‘to discover a book on display in a well-staffed, lovingly maintained shop, to hold it in your hand then to sneak off and buy the same book online, is really just a genteel form of shoplifting’, he noted. And it is hard to argue with that.


The book as an object in its own right – a desirable one at that – was also highlighted this week on Radio 4's Saturday Live. One of the guests was Mark Cockram, a bookbinder who is one of the craftsmen who makes the stunning presentation copies of each year's Man Booker shortlisted books that are given to the authors on prize-giving night. When asked about the inspiration for each design Cockram let slip that he reads the book he is binding several times. How many is ‘several’? Up to a staggering 10 apparently and then he has only what's left of the month between receiving the commission and handing over the finished book to complete his task. (He didn't mention whether he was the binder for Eleanor Catton's 848-page The Luminaries). And nor did he vouchsafe whether, after his 10 readings and re-readings of the various books, he agreed with the judges' choice.


The six-woman shortlist for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction (the Orange Prize as was) has just been announced and half of it comprises some familiar Man Booker faces. Ali Smith, an Man Booker shortlistee in 2001, 2005 and 2014 is there for How To Be Both (is there a prize she hasn't been nominated for this past year?), Sarah Waters (2002, 2006, 2009) for The Paying Guests and Rachel Cusk (longlisted 2005) for Outline. They are up against daunting opposition in the shape, most notably, of the wonderful American Anne Tyler, a former Man Booker International Prize finalist. The winner will be announced on 3 June.


Congratulations too to Donal Ryan, Man Booker longlisted in 2013 for The Spinning Heart. He has just been named one of the winners of the European Union Prize for Literature. Perhaps unsurprisingly this is a complicated prize in which tranches of countries take a turn to be represented every other year and in which authors are nominated by national juries. Not that that will matter to Ryan as he picks up a 5,000 Euros cheque at a gala presentation in Brussels. What will be of more interest to him as he stands beside his Slovakian, Lithuanian, Norwegian et al co-winners is that the prize gives the authors help in getting their books translated and disseminated around the EU.


The New York Times had a pithy reaction to the simultaneous American openings of the stage and screen versions of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall/Bring Up the Bodies. Its headline hardly minced words: ‘British invasion’.

David Nicholls - credit Kristofer Samuelsson
David Nicholls - credit Kristofer Samuelsson