Friday, April 10, 2009

Another Short Story Prize for Amy Hempel (and One for Alistair MacLeod)

The winners of this year's PEN/Malamud Award are Amy Hempel and Canadian author Alistair MacLeod, whose work I confess I've never read (and whose name is misspelled on the PEN/Faulkner Web site). PEN/Malamud is an annual award "to honor excellence in the art of the short story" and not for a particular book. The Web site is not very specific about how winners are chosen or the rationale behind the pairing, nor does it specify what the prize amount is. All it says is: "A panel of PEN/Faulkner directors, together with representatives of Mr. Malamud’s literary executors, form the selection committee for the awards." I think literary awards should be as transparent as possible, and I wish PEN/Faulkner were more forthcoming about these details.

In October, Hempel also won the $30,000 Rea Award for The Short Story, which has a similar scope. A jury of three writers selects the Rea winner. By my reckoning, Hempel is only the fourth author to win both awards within the space of a year. The other three are Lorrie Moore (2004-05), Grace Paley (1993-94), and Eudora Welty (1992), which puts Hempel in good company. Nine other writers (for a total of 13) have won both the Rea and PEN/Malamud. They are: Ann Beattie, Andre Dubus, Stuart Dybeck, Richard Ford, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, Cynthia Ozick, John Updike, and Tobias Wolff. So far, the only writer to win these two awards and The Story Prize is Tobias Wolff, who scored the hat trick a month ago.