Friday, March 15, 2013

What The Story Prize Judges Had to Say About Claire Vaye Watkins' Battleborn

photo © Beowulf Sheehan
When the three judges for The Story Prize make their choices, they provide citations for the books. This year's judges were Jane Ciabattari, Yiyun Li, and Sarah McNally. We include the citations in congratulatory letters we present to each finalist, along with their checks ($20,000 to the winner, $5,000 to the other two finalists). To protect the confidentiality of the judges' votes and the integrity of the process, we don't attribute citations to any particular judge.

Here's what the judges had to say about Story Prize winner Claire Vaye Watkins' Battleborn:
“In the ten stories in her first collection, Claire Vaye Watkins takes an unflinching look  at the apocalyptic dimensions of our culture's boom-or-bust obsession. Her stories are set in the deserts and whorehouses and rockhound haunts of her home state of Nevada, long ago dubbed ‘Battle Born’ because it was founded during the Civil War. In her opening story,  ‘Ghosts, Cowboys,’ she delivers an artful and gutsy answer to the question, ‘How should a story begin?’, while writing of Reno’s Gold Rush days, the Spahn Ranch where 1950s Westerns were filmed, and the toxic love of the present-day narrator’s doomed parents. Watkins’s imaginative reach encompasses the ambivalent love of half-sisters, the grief at a mother’s suicide, the damage a Las Vegas party turned violent wreaks on two teenage girls, a young pregnant woman’s twisted connection to her own father, and the deadly repercussions of a nuclear test blast. She’s a fierce and original new writer, and Battleborn is an astonishing short story collection.”
“So rarely does a story collection triumph like a Beethoven symphony, so rarely is each story in the collection as ambitious as a novel, that readers of Battleborn must stop from time to time and wonder about its creator: what an audacious voice, what a visionary mind, what understanding—ruthless yet full of tenderness—she has toward her characters and the landscape they inhabit. Claire Vaye Watkins dazzles us with a perfect collection that is to be celebrated by lovers of short stories. What a glorious discovery!”