The Short Story Prize

Great collections from Tobias Wolff, Jhumpa Lahiri and Joe Meno

by Dawn Raffel

Last night I had the good fortune to attend the awards ceremony for    The Story Prize,  one of the biggest annual awards in this country for writers working in the short form, which was held in a packed auditorium at The New School in Manhattan.
 
The three finalists—Jhumpa Lahiri, Joe Meno and Tobias Wolff—read from their work and were interviewed by the brilliant Larry Dark, who directs the award. Lahiri, nominated for her bestselling  ,  collection Unaccustomed Earth read the beginning of a richly layered story about an immigrant family living in Boston. She explained to Dark that many of her pieces are years in the making, and that she feels inspired and artistically challenged by the work of Mavis Gallant and William Trevor.
 
Meno, whose work is far less traditional than Lahiri’s, read a muscular piece from    Demons in the Spring (Akashic) about a woman left to deal with a baby and troubled child while her soldier husband is at war. He spoke with Dark about collaborating with visual artists and creating a book that is really a book—a physical, visual object that can’t be Kindled.

The $20,000 prize, announced at the evening’s end by The Story Prize Founder Julie Lindsey, went to the third reader, the sublime Tobias Wolff, for   Our Story Begins (Knopf). In his interview with Dark, Wolff stated that he loves short stories because the best of them—by Frank O’Connor, Eudora Welty, James Joyce—can be “snowflake perfect.” The wry, moving, wholly original story he read, “Bullet in the Brain” " was one of those.

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