Frank O’Connor Short Story Award Longlist

The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award Longlist was announced last week, but it’s only a list of all eligible collections, not whittled down from a larger body of contenders. Really, it’s less of an honor for those nominated than a PR move.

Of course, the leadership of the prize hardly follows convention, especially when it comes to long/short lists. Remember last year, when they bypassed the shortlist completely and awarded it hands down to Jhumpa Lahiri?

Also, in an attempt to add more words to a title that might be considered far too short, the “Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award” is being renamed “The Cork City – Frank O’Connor Short Story Award,” due to sponsorship from the Cork City (takes a lot to raise the prize of 35,000 euros — about 47,000 U.S. dollars).

British and American authors combined for 33 entries, while all other countries combined amounted for 24 additional entries. But some I’d consider to be staunchly American — like “One More Year” by Sara Krasikov — are listed under the country where the author was born, Ukraine. She wrote the book in English, and studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and lives in New York City. Just because her country of origin was Ukraine (and the book contains many Russians and Georgians and former Soviet bloc countries) doesn’t make this particular book Ukrainian. It might make the author Ukrainian, but not the book. But perhaps I’d see things differently if this was a prize for an author (like the Nobel) rather than a prize for a book.

But nonetheless, I liked Krasikov’s collection quite well, and understand the difficulties of assigning nationalities to books (or to authors?) when you have four options: the country of author’s birth, country of author’s residence, language of the book, and location of stories in the book.

I actually need a reminder of who’s eligible, because the dates are odd — books are considered from September 2008 through August 2009. Perhaps the odd timing is because they don’t want to compete with the slew of March/April book prizes?

I’m especially glad to see:

  • Glen Pourciau, “Invite”
  • Wells Tower, “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned”
  • Christopher Meeks, “Months and Seasons”
  • Lauren Groff, “Delicate Edible Bird”
  • Mary Gaitskill, “Don’t Cry”
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Thing Around Your Neck”
  • Tania Hershman, “The White Road”
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, “Nocturnes”
  • Ali Smith, “The First Person”

I’d also like to ask the organizers of the prize (or any knowledgeable BookFox readers) a question: What do they consider to be the difference between vanity press and self-published? In the official rules, they bar vanity press publications, but the longlist contains self-published books.

And my guess for the winner? Well, rather than embarrass myself publicly, I’m going to wait until the shortlist comes out. Then I’ll hazard an informed guess. If you can’t wait, and want an inkling of what direction the prize might be headed, check out the previous winners.

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