This Thursday (6th November 2014) saw Joshua Ferris announced as the winner of the 2014 Dylan Thomas Award, taking the international writers prize money of £30,000 for his third novel, To Rise Again At A Decent Hour. It’s adds to his growing reputation as an author, building on the success of his debut novel, Then We Came To The End, which was one of the nominated finalist in the National Book Award, as well as picking up the the 2007 PEN/Hemingway Award.
The book had already made it’s way into the 2014 Booker Prize shortlist, only narrowly missing out to Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road To The Deep North, and the Dylan Thomas prize confirms Ferris’ place as one of the most impressive younger writers at the moment. With just three novels down and two of them with prestigious awards, you’ve got to expect a hell of a lot more still to come from the 39 year old from Danville Illinois.
The book is a modern day take on the classic doppelganger storyline as Paul O’Rourke, an affluent middle-aged dentist from New York, finds that his life is being imitated with fake Twitter and Facebook accounts in his name. At a time in his life when he’s struggling to to find meaning for himself, the presence of the accounts and the fact that it would appear that the other him is having a much better time of it gives him a whole new challenge to face.
The mid-life development pushes him close to the edges of his own reason, making him question his very existence and the possibilities that he’s been missing out on. The challenge is on to find the person impersonating him and try to understand why, which leads him to look back on his difficult past, while confronting the potential of his future and the blurred lines between reality and cyberspace make believe.
To Rise Again At A Decent Hour hit the shelves on hardback back in May and it’s picked up a series of rave reviews along the way. Now it has an award to mimic the critical response to the novel, adding to the vote of confidence that came from the Booker Prize shortlist place earlier in 2014.
Ferris took the prize, along with the bronze bust of Dylan Thomas (pictured above), ahead of the other shortlisted writers, which included Naomi Wood’s Mrs Hemingway, Kseniya Melnik’s Snow in May, Kei Miller’s The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, Owen Sheers’ Mametz, Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. Considering the fact that Catton picked up the 2013 Man Booker Prize, it’s pretty impressive that Joshua Ferris was announced as the winner here.
The Dylan Thomas Prize was established back in 2006 to recognise the work of young(ish) writers. Sponsored by Swansea University to continue the legacy of the Welsh writer, the prize is intended to celebrate the “best literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under”.
The 2014 judging panel consisted of Hay Festival founder, Peter Florence, novelist and columnist, Allison Pearson, BBC 6 Music’s Cerys Matthews, journalist and author, Carolyn Hitt, commentator and artist, Nicholas Wroe, poet and English professor at the University of Texas, Kurt Heinzelman, poet, novelist, journalist and dancer, Tishani Doshi and the Founder and President of the International Dylan Thomas Prize, Professor Peter Stead.