Thursday, April 14, 2022

What the Judges Had to Say About The Story Prize Winner, Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

© 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 Dev Aujla, critic, writer, and librarian David Kipen, and writer Kirstin Valdez Quade. 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:

“Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor is a linked collection of quiet stories that resound with tenderness and insight. Taylor is incredibly attuned to the slightest shift in the emotional weather in his characters and writes with absolute precision and compassion about their desires, vulnerabilities, failings, joys, and longings. His careful attention makes these very ordinary people extraordinary. His sentences are finely tuned, his language subtle and gorgeous. Filthy Animals is an unforgettable collection and an affecting portrait of a community.”

“In the first pages of the book, Lionel, one of the main characters explains his experience of showing up at a potluck with a new group of people as having ‘no way of getting inside the reference of the system.’ Brandon Taylor’s collection of short stories builds a world and provides that reference that the character in the book was seeking. 

“The writing feels like it has a familiarity with the narrative arcs of physical choreography. That it knows not only dance but how physical bodies moving throughout time can craft a story as rich as the one crafted by words. Bodies are being pushed to do things that are uncomfortable and fulfilling often in the same act. How far do we push? What boundaries do we transgress? What expectations do we choose to accept and carry ourselves and which ones do we just let go?

 “The book deals with voids that are often created from hurt, loss, or expectation and then charts characters' paths to fill or make sense of them. It is the very brokenness that is present that is the most human, that is the most true to the universal in Brandon Taylor’s writing. How does one fix this feeling—with people, with sex, on quiet walks home, with space, and sometimes with nothingness. One of the character's describes this attraction as ‘…there is something good and wounded about him.’ 

 “Brandon Taylor takes on this search, sometimes resolving itself but other times making you question, turn away, and immediately turn back to the page and continue. He uses the stories to challenge and to push deeper through different perspectives, different lives so that when you put down the book and walk into the world you feel like you can see through people’s full selves. You see, as if for the first time, people’s needs unfulfilled, moments of brokenness, and their actions and lives simply as a way of putting it all back together.” 


What The Story Prize Judges Had to Say About Let Me Think by J. Robert Lennon

© 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 Dev Aujla, critic, writer, and librarian David Kipen, and writer Kirstin Valdez Quade. 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 Let Me Think by J. Robert Lennon:

“In 1970, when Mr. and Mrs. Lennon brought their infant son home from a Pennsylvania hospital, it was already child abuse to name him John. Perhaps not surprisingly, John Robert Lennon grew up to become American fiction's premier measurer of the distance by which reality falls shy of perfection. He is our very own poet of the not-quite. In ‘The Museum of Near Misses,’ the umpteenth excruciatingly funny short story in Let Me Think, a narrator named J. Robert Lennon happens into a museum where the presidential election of 2016 has apparently gone a different way. There is simply no justice if this story doesn't win the 2021 Sidewise Award for Alternate History. (A real thing, by the way—but one for which, alas, recent reality is sadly ineligible.) 

“Some of the stories in Let Me Think are so brief that including them almost makes the book shorter. Nano-vignettes like the title story, which first appeared in Barrelhouse, know more about family and parenthood than any pallet-load of humorless pop-psychology sludge. Some readers will follow the recurring couple at the heart of Lennon's ‘Marriage’ stories—who bicker over, for instance, the husband's suddenly suspicious lack of exclamation points in texts to his wife—and fight the urge to sweep their house for listening devices. 

“As a critic once wrote of Lennon's hysterical, strikingly well-plotted novel The Funnies, the author is ‘fresh without reaching, funny without stooping.’ Once in a while in Let Me Think, ‘fresh’ comes perilously close to ‘experimental’—but no, wait, come back! As Lennon's namesake once wrote of a more radical sort of experiment, ‘If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow.’ It's hard to say whom Lennon might be carrying pictures of. Barthelme? Nabokov? Roseanne Barr? Someday, aspiring writers may yet carry pictures of Lennon—and not the Liverpudlian one, either.

     “In other words, please read Let Me Think.”


What The Story Prize Judges Had to Say About Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King


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 Dev Aujla, critic, writer, and librarian David Kipen, and writer Kirstin Valdez Quade. 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 Five Tuesdays in Winter (Grove Press) by Lily King:

“Each story in Five Tuesdays in Winter has the resonance of a novel, yet each also maintains the satisfying arc of a short story. Lily King’s language is beautiful and evocative without being showy and is always at the service of the story. Her ability to create empathy for her protagonists is, in many cases, skillfully wrought through the perspective of someone reckoning—often wistfully—with past events. These retrospective views don’t necessarily capture the most transformative moment in a person’s life, but they do capture powerful and telling experiences, the kind of memories, tinged with longing, we’re drawn to frequently. 

“The last story, 'The Man at the Door,’ is a different kind of story entirely. It’s playful, inventive, funny, and at times scary—like another King, Stephen, filtered through a woman’s sensibility. But there’s also a seriousness to it. As Cyril Connolly famously stated: ‘There is no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.’ Easy for a man to say! Women writers live this experience. And that’s what connects ‘The Man at the Door’ to the other, tonally different stories that precede it—that sense of lives lived imperfectly, regrets and all, that Five Tuesdays in Winter so generously and consistently captures.”



Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Brandon Taylor's Filthy Animals is the 18th Winner of The Story Prize!

© Beowulf Sheehan


The winner of The Story Prize for books published in 2021 is Filthy Animals Riverhead Books) by Brandon Taylor. Riverhead has been a strong supporter of short fiction over the years, and this is the third time one of its books has won The Story Prize. The other two winners are Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins in 2013 and Florida by Lauren Groff in 2019. Other Riverhead finalists have been George Saunders, Junot Díaz, Daniel Alarcón, and Danielle Evans.
 
video we've posted on YouTube features readings by and interviews with Taylor and the other two finalists for books published in 2021: Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King (Grove Press) and Let Me Think by J. Robert Lennon (Graywolf Press).
 
The Story Prize’s $20,000 top prize is among the largest first-prize amounts of any annual U.S. book award for fiction. Taylor also received an engraved silver bowl, which The Story Prize presents to all winners. As runners-up, King and Lennon each received $5,000.

Director Larry Dark and Founder Julie Lindsey selected the three finalists for The Story Prize, now in its 18th year, from among 119 books entered in 2021, representing 90 different publishers or imprints. Three judges—librarian and writer Dev Aujla; critic, writer, and librarian David Kipen; and writer Kirstin Valdez Quade—determined the winner from among the three books chosen as finalists. 

Filthy Animals is also a finalist for The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author age 39 or under. 
 
Buy Filthy Animals, Five Tuesdays in Winter, Let Me Think other story collections published in 2021 from your local bookseller or on Bookshop.

Congratulations to Brandon Taylor, and to Riverhead Books! 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Live-Stream The Story Prize Award Event on April 13 at 7:30 p.m.

We're having a private award night this year instead of the larger public events we held at The New School for 15 years (before the novel coronavirus came along). And because the event is invitation only, we're planning to live-stream it on YouTube on Wednesday night.

Here's the link.

What you'll see and hear is the three finalists for The Story Prize for books published in 2021—Lily King, J. Robert Lennon, and Brandon Taylor—read from and discuss their short story collections before we announce the winner and present that writer with an engraved silver bowl and the top prize of $20,000. The other two honorees won't walk away empty handed; they each take home $5,000.

Lily King, J. Robert Lennon, and Brandon Taylor

Given the disruptive nature of the pandemic, if technical difficulties interfere with the live-stream, you'll still be able to watch the video on our website and on YouTube the next day. And speaking of which, you can find videos of past events under the WINNERS menu on our home page.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Story Prize Longlist for Story Collections Published in 2021

Writing, assembling, and publishing a short story collection takes years of creative effort and remarkable perseverance. Every writer who published a collection in 2021 truly accomplished something significant and deserves an enormous amount of credit. Last year, The Story Prize received as entries 119 books published by 90 publishers or imprints. We choose the shortlist of three finalists first, then release our longlist a few weeks later. The three finalists, The Story Prize Spotlight Award winner, and the longlist combined highlight 20 books. Here then is our longlist of 16 outstanding short story collections (links are to Bookshop):

You Never Get It Back by Cara Blue Adams (University of Iowa Press)
The Ghost Variations by Kevin Brockmeier (Pantheon)
Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen (Mariner)
Skinship by Yoon Choi (Alfred A. Knopf)
Gordo by Jaime Cortez (Black Cat)
Life Among the Terranauts by Caitlin Horrocks (Little, Brown)
Love Like Water, Love Like Fire by Mikhail Iossel (Bellevue Literary Press)
My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson (Henry Holt)
The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken (Ecco Press)
Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz (Grove Press)
The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World)
King of the Animals by Josh Russell (Louisiana State University Press)
American Estrangement by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh (W.W. Norton)
Are You Enjoying? by Mira Sethi (Alfred A. Knopf)
Attrib. by Eley Williams (Anchor Books)
Monster in the Middle by Tiphanie Yanique (Riverhead Books)

We've posted a Bookshop list of all the story collections that we received as entries in 2021. It was a great year for short story collections, and more than 20 other books could easily have made this list. It's always difficult to narrow the field down, and it seems to get harder every year. 

We also want to recognize several excellent books by accomplished short story writers published in 2021: The Glassy Burning, Floor of Hell by Brian Evenson, Big Dark Hole by Jeffrey Ford, The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus, The (Other) You by Joyce Carol Oates, Prayer for the Living by Ben Okri, Excuse Me While I Disappear by Joanna Scott, Look for Me and I'll Be Gone by John Edgar Wideman, and Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer. 

Two other collections published in 2021 that weren't eligible for The Story Prize are also worth noting: Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So, who sadly died before his acclaimed debut collection was published, and Festival Days by Jo Ann Beard, a remarkable hybrid that includes a mix of short stories and essays. 

We'll announce the 18th winner of The Story Prize on April 13 at a private event that we'll livestream (details to come), featuring readings by and interviews with the three finalists—Lily King, J. Robert Lennon, and Brandon Taylor—followed by the announcement of the winner.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Born Into This by Adam Thompson Is the Winner of The Story Prize Spotlight Award

Beyond naming three finalists each year, we also present The Story Prize Spotlight Award to a collection of exceptional merit. Selected books can be promising works by first-time authors, collections in alternative formats, or works that demonstrate an unusual perspective on the writer's craft. The award includes a prize of $1,000. 

We're pleased to announce that the winner for books published in 2021 is Born Into This by Adam Thompson, published by Two Dollar Radio. In these sixteen stories, Thompson examines and deconstructs the conflicts, dilemmas, and unexpected affinities that arise in the shadow of a past filled with atrocity and trauma. With a keen eye for action and conflict, Thompson tracks the lives of aboriginal and non-aboriginal characters as they negotiate the social and economic pressures of modern-day Tasmania. The legacy of oppression and genocide hangs like a dense cloud over this collection, but the stories focus just as much on the everyday aspects of the characters’ lives: silence, solitude, longing, neglect, escape, retribution, forgiveness, sacrifice, duty, and equanimity.  

Adam Thompson is a pakana writer from Launceston, Tasmania. His work has been published by the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Kill Your Darlings, and Griffith Review—as well as appearing in several anthologies. Born Into This was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards, The Age Book of the Year, and the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. He was named as Tasmanian Aboriginal Artist of the Year in 2019. Adam has written for performance art and television. His episode of Little J and Big Cuz (Shelter) is in Season 3 of the series and will be broadcast in early 2022. Adam is passionate about advancing the interests of the pakana community. He has worked for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre for more than 20 years.

This is the tenth time we've given out The Story Prize Spotlight Award. The nine previous winners were: Drifting House by Krys Lee, Byzantium by Ben Stroud, Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor, Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar, Subcortical by Lee Conell, Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy, The Trojan War Museum by Ayşe Papatya Bucak, and, most recently, Inheritors by Asako Serizawa.

You can find links to all ten books, including Thompson's, on Bookshop, in the list Winners of The Story Prize Spotlight Award.

We'll announce the winner of The Story Prize on April 13 at a private event, which we'll live stream, featuring readings by and interviews with the three finalists: Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King, Let Me Think by J. Robert Lennon, and Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor. And soon we'll post a long list of short story collections published in 2021.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The 2021/22 Finalists for The Story Prize Are Lily King, J. Robert Lennon, and Brandon Taylor

The Story Prize, now in its 18th year, is pleased to honor as its finalists three outstanding short story collections chosen from 119 submissions representing 90 different publishers or imprints. They are:


Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King (Grove Press)
Let Me Think by J. Robert Lennon (Graywolf Press)  
Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor
 
We will announce the winner of The Story Prize on the evening of Wednesday, April 13, at a private event featuring readings by and interviews with finalists King, Lennon, and Taylor, as well as the announcement of the winner and acceptance of the $20,000 top prize and the engraved silver bowl that goes with it. The runners-up will each receive $5,000. We plan to live stream the event starting at 7:30 p.m. and will post a link before then and a video the next day. 

Story Prize Founder Julie Lindsey and Director Larry Dark selected the finalists. Three independent judges will determine the winner:

  • Writer and librarian Dev Aujla,
  • Critic, writer, and librarian David Kipen, and
  • Author Kirstin Valdez Quade

In the weeks ahead, we'll announce this year's winner of The Story Prize Spotlight Award. We'll also publish a long list of other exceptional collections we read last year and information on how to watch the event.