Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Quirky Prize Announces Its Finalists

The Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize has announced this year's shortlist/finalists:
As far as I can tell, three of these books aren't scheduled for U.S. publication this year (and therefore won't be in the running for The Story Prize): Grimshaw's, Kow's, and O Ceallaigh's. U.S. publishers might want to take a look, if they haven't already.

John Fox on the BookFox blog reminds us that last year the O'Connor prize announced a winner--Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth--and no finalists, a decision that kept as many as five other authors from the extra attention this would have brought them. The official announcement of the finalists is a bit unusual this year, as well, in that it specifically mentions other authors whose books the judges didn't choose:

Notable names edged out for a position on this year's shortlist include Booker winner Kazuo Ishiguro, Orange Prize winner Chimanda Ngozi Adiche, veteran short story authors Ali Smith, Mary Gaitskill and James Lasdun and reviewers' darling Sana Krasikov.
While The Story Prize does announce a list of other notable books a few weeks after we announce our finalists, it seems odd to me to specifically mention books you haven't chosen when revealing your finalists. It detracts slightly from the books the judges did choose and is certainly no consolation to the also-rans.

This is a quirky book award, but the upside far outweighs the oddities. It's exclusively for short story collections, and the prize is a very generous 35,000 euros (the equivalent, currently, of nearly $50,000). By the way, the winner will be announced on Sept. 20 at the culmination of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Festival in Cork, Ireland, which looks like a lot of fun. Hmmm, maybe we should have a short story festival like that in the U.S.