Friday, March 4, 2016

What The Story Prize Judges Had to Say About Colum McCann's Thirteen Ways of Looking

Photo by Beowulf Sheehan
When the three judges for The Story Prize make their choices, they provide citations for the books. This year's judges were Anthony Doerr, Rita Mead, and Kathryn Schulz. 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 Colum McCann's Thirteen Ways of Looking:

"Part police procedural, part Ulysses, strung across the wirework of a Wallace Stevens poem, the title novella dazzles. It combines a playfulness for genre-melding with the delight of Mendelssohn’s wordplay with the author's wide-open empathy for every character—even the despicable Elliot—to open giant questions about race, aging, and especially class. And while so many layers—is the novella a retelling of Joyce’s 'The Dead'? a rumination on the culture of surveillance? do fathers bear the sins of their sons?—can be teased apart, tasted, and appreciated individually, at bottom the piece remains a gripping murder mystery, and compels a reader to consume it in a single gulp. In the three remaining stories, McCann continues to prove himself a master of sensory detail and the sentence fragment; the confrontation at the climax of 'Treaty' leaves one thrilled, nauseous, and fully-dilated. Few writers use prose this well to show how the human mind can simultaneously occupy multiple places and times."