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Hollywood Hamid

Hollywood Hamid

Yet more good news for Mohsin Hamid. Not only has Exit West caught the eye of the 2017 Man Booker Prize judges, but it has also attracted the attention of Hollywood big shots too. In an unlikely pairing, the Russo brothers, Joe and Anthony – who are currently directing back-to-back Avengers films – have just acquired the rights to Hamid's Man Booker Prize longlisted Exit West. The film will be directed by Morten Tyldum whose back catalogue features sci-fi (the Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt bespangled Passengers), period drama (The Imitation Game with Sherlock Cumberbatch), and Scandi gore (Jo Nesbo's Headhunters). So the mind boggles at what will happen to Hamid's allegorical tale of Syrian refugees teleporting through secret doorways.

While on the subject of teleportation. . . a nice and rather touching response from Ned Beauman, Man Booker Prize longlisted in 2012 for The Teleportation Accident, when asked about the value of literary prizes: ‘I’ve been with the same publisher for all my books,’ he replied. ‘So if you have a publisher who has put that much faith and investment into books that aren’t exactly blockbusters then you’re always thinking: how can I make sure that pays off for my publisher? And a prize nomination is simply the best way to make sure that happens.’

A nice response too from Fiona Mozley when reflecting on her inclusion on the 2017 Man Booker Prize longlist: ‘I already feel like I’ve won,’ she said recently. And, she noted, that whatever happens on 13th September with the announcement of the shortlist ‘I’ll always be in the 2017 Man Booker dozen, no matter what else happens. Pretty cool.’

Nick Barley, chair of the 2017 Man Booker International judges, is also director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and in that capacity interviewed David Grossman, the novelist he and his fellow judges picked as their winner. Grossman's A Horse Walks into a Bar features a stand-up comedian as its central character so, asked Barley, did Grossman go to stand-up shows while writing the book? ‘Never, never, not even once.’ He admitted to seeing routines on television, ‘most of them after I’d written the book’.

If you think that bad language is more prevalent in books than it used to be, you are right (at least in books by American authors). A study at San Diego State University analysed a vast range of books published between 1950 and 2008, looking for seven particular swearwords (you can probably guess most of them). The team found that books published between 2005 and 2008 were 28 times more likely to include swearwords than books published in the early 1950s, with the f-word alone 168 times more likely to be used. Of course British fiction contains its share of profanities – James Kelman's 1994 Man Booker Prize winning How Late it Was, How Late being an infamous example while last year's winner, The Sellout by Paul Beatty contained more than 80 fs and 90 uses of the n-word. The study's authors put down the increase to changes in culture that ‘increasingly promoted self-expression and individualism. Individualism is a cultural system that emphasises the self more and social rules less. So as social rules fell by the wayside, and people were told to express themselves, swearing became more common.’ They refused, however, to draw any value judgements: ‘I think this cultural lens is the best way to view it, rather than as bad or good.’ No comparable study has been run to see if we Brits are as potty-mouthed as our American cousins.