Thursday, February 27, 2020

What The Story Prize Judges Had to Say About Finalist Grand Union by Zadie Smith

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 writer and librarian Kristen Arnett, publisher Andy Hunter, and writer Tiphanie Yanique. 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 Grand Union by Zadie Smith:
“In 1964, the artist Jasper Johns wrote a note to himself: ‘Take an object / Do something to it / Do something else to it.’ Instructions for artmaking, they resonate for story-making as well. ‘Tell a story. Do something to it. Do something else to it.’ All writers tell a story. The good ones do something to it: tell it in a way we haven’t heard before, give it a fresh truth. The great ones then do something else to it. Zadie Smith is a great one; the ‘something else’ she does to her stories is skin them with a flick of a knife, revealing everything—every muscle, nerve, twitch and throb of life. Just when you think you know where she’s leading you, she zooms out, opening up the narrative to ambiguity and multiple truths. These stories demonstrate her supreme awareness—self-awareness, yes, but also acute and wise awareness of others, and awareness of ‘the whole game, from top to bottom.’”