Posts in "Literary Prizes" category

Frank O’Connor Short Story Prize

The shortlist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story prize is out, and they did much better at creating a shortlist than last year, when the Jhumpa Lahiri coup took down the prize.

  • An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe)
  • Singularity by Charlotte Grimshaw (New Zealand)
  • Ripples and other Stories by Shih-Li Kow (Malaysia)
  • Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy (United States)
  • The Pleasant Light of Day by Philip O Ceallaigh (Ireland)
  • Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower (United States)

Nice international selection, and love to see my boy Tower representing. Winner of the 35,000 Euro prize will be announced Sept. 20.

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.

Story Prize Finalists

Story Prize copy

Out of a field of 73 books, the Story Prize has announced its finalists for 2008:

  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Demons in the Spring by Joe Meno (Akashic Books)
  • Our Story Begins by Tobias Wolff (Alfred A. Knopf)

I am surprised by the Joe Meno nomination, but also delighted because I enjoy his fiction. Also, isn’t it fun to see a smaller publisher like Akashic sandwiched between two Knopf books? Unfortunately, I think he has the smallest chance of winning.

Only a third of the stories in Our Story Begins are brand new — the rest are snagged from previous collections — but in a year when a version of the National Book Award winner was published thirty years previously, I don’t think that hurts Wolff’s chances.

Unaccustomed Earth needs no introduction, or more publicity for that matter, but Lahiri is immensely talented and can write stories that appeal to both critics and mainstream sensibilities, a talent greatly needed in the short story world. But she would be such a shoo-in — remember the debacle where Unaccustomed Earth jumped the whole shortlist procedure for the Frank O’Connor award? — that to award her yet another short story prize is a bit of overkill.

I do wish that the Story Prize would start with a slightly larger pool of finalists: five would be a nice round number, or if they wanted to be contrarian, four or six. Shortlisting makes excellent publicity for short story authors who desperately need it, makes a better pool for short story readers to draw from, and makes guessing the winner more interesting.

The press release:

These three books were selected from among 73 story collections from 56 different publishers or imprints. Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times Best-Seller List and was the unanimous choice for Ireland’s Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Meno’s Demons in the Spring was published by small press publisher Akashic Books in a limited edition with original illustrations by 20 artists from the fine art, graphic, and comic book worlds—and part of the proceeds are benefitting 826Chicago, a drop-in tutoring center. Wolff’s Our Story Begins includes 16 stories from three previous collections and adds ten new stories to the mix, representing a substantial selection of accomplished work by a master of the form.

The winner is announced March 4th, 2009. The prize is $20,000 (oh, and a silver bowl to boot!).

My prediction? Bet on Tobias Wolff.

Buy these books from Amazon: Unaccustomed Earth, Demons in the Spring, Our Story Begins

VQR Review Winner

VQR just announced the winner of its review contest, in which reviewers under 30 submitted a review of a book published in 2008. Congrats to Emily Wilkinson, for her review of “The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective” by Kate Summerscale.

And, I might add, she writes for the litblog The Millions.

Jean-Marie Gustav Le Clezio Wins 2008 Nobel Prize

The French writer Jean-Marie Gutav Le Clezio just won the 2008 Nobel prize for Literature. He was eleventh on the list of betting sites, offering 14/1 odds, just between Inger Christensen and Michael Ondaatje. He’s published thirty-odd books, a few of which have been translated into English. Many people identify two distinct periods in his writing — a more experimental phase in the 1960s, followed by slipping into writing about more accessible themes.

The anti-American comments of the Nobel Prize Permanent Secretary Horace Engdahl have been widely disseminated: “The US is too isolated, too insular.” But consider this. The Swedes have given the award to a prose writer, not a single poet, for the last twelve years. Also, in the last fifteen years, ten European writers have taken the award, and the others have had very strong ties to Europe.

So who exactly is being insular? If anything, this proves that the literary vision and reach of the Nobel prize has shrunk from a international focus to a European one. It’s the prize that has become parochial, not the literature.

Betting on the Nobel Prize

Nothing could be more foolish than betting on the Nobel. At least with the National Book Award and the Man Booker you have a shortlist to choose from. With the Nobel, it’s anyone’s guess. Besides, I’ve lost plenty of money betting on the stock market, which these days might be even more foolish than betting on an award for literature than no one successfully predicts.

But still: guesses are free, and involve only pride. So here’s mine: Haruki Murakami. Formerly 10/1 odds, now 7/1 odds. We’ll find out on Thursday.


Poets and Writers has a searchable archive of contests, including a function where you can find fee-free ones. (like Greensboro Review)

Book Reviewers, not to be outdone by the hundreds of fiction contests, now have their own contest. Virginia Quarterly Review wants the best review of a book published in 2008 by writers under thirty. Winners (and perhaps the five runners-up) are published in VQR. The name, “Young Reviewers Contest,” makes it sound like the award is for tweens, but in the literary world, “young” is anyone under thirty-five.

Open Letters has a trifecta (1, 2, 3) of criticism on Evan Connell’s collected fiction, “Lost in Uttar Pradesh.”

After reading James Wood’s “How Fiction Works,” I’m starting to feel bad for John Updike, who is used as a primo example of how not to write in Wood’s section on authorial/character narration. The text in question, of course, is “Terrorist.” I still remember that Harper’s article that dismembered that novel piece by piece . . .

It is disconcerting to find that various individuals named “John Fox” have already published a young gay lover novel, texts on “nonparametric regression”, how poetry can heal, the historical “Trail of the Lonesome Pine”, an expedition through Manchuria and, of course, the book of Martyrs. Guess I’ll have to go with the John Matthew Fox approach.

Articles continue to pour in to eulogize Solzhenitsyn.

Jhumpa Lahiri takes Frank OConnor International Short Story Award

Jhumpa Lahiri took the Frank OConnor International Short Story Award outright, bypassing a shortlist. The longlisted authors surely must feel some disappointment that not even a shortlist was announced, because shortlisting can help boost the profile of a short story writer and increase sales. Apparently the judges were so certain they did not want to raise hopes, but hope raising is always part of the risk. I think they should have gone ahead and shortlisted simply because the process requires it and because of the benefits to authors that need the publicity. But then, again, highlighting little known authors hardly seems the focus when an author like Jhumpa Lahiri wins. A blurb from the judges:

“With a unanimous winner at this early stage we decided it would be a sham to compose a shortlist and put five other writers through unnecessary stress and suspense. Not only were the jury unanimous in their choice of Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth as the winner, they were unanimous in their belief that so outstanding was Lahiri’s achievement in this book that no other title was a serious contender.”

Million Writers Award: Top Online Stories

storySouth has announced its shortlist of online short stories for the Million Writers Award. It’s a very egalitarian selection, with no journal represented twice, and you can read all the stories to vote for your favorite.

Frank O’Connor Short Story Award

The 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the heftiest cash prize in the literary world for the short form (35,000 euros), has announced its longlist. Thirty-nine authors from around the globe are nominated. Only one Canadian was up (no, it wasn’t Alice Munro) as opposed to fourteen British writers (!). But the nice thing about this award is that they actually make good on the their promise/goal of highlighting up-and-coming authors. On the American side of things, I’m glad to see Benjamin Percy nominated for “Refresh, Refresh,” although both Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Unaccustomed Earth” and Jim Shepard’s “Like You’d Understand, Anyway” are obvious picks. (Tobias Wolff wasn’t eligible because “Our Story Begins” collected previously published stories).

I’m also glad to see Nam Le nominated under the Australian category for “The Boat,” which is his first book and which comes out this month. Roddy Doyle is up for Ireland, but his latest collection, “The Deportees and Other Stories,” is underwhelming. Anne Enright, who won the Man Booker Prize for her novel “The Gathering,” is also up under the Irish section, but since I haven’t read her collection, “Taking Pictures,” I can’t pass judgment. If you remember, last year the prize went to Miranda July for “No One Belongs Here More Than You,” and the shortlist was quirky, bypassing Alice Munro and favoring writers like the Israeli Edgar Keret. So it seems likely that an up-and-comer has a good chance with this prize.

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