Monday, April 16, 2007

The Spirit of the Short Story, The Spirit of the Place

It seems to be high season in the realm of the literary awards in the UK and this blogger can hardly keep up!
The finalists for the National Short Story Prize were announced on Friday and include Hanif Kureishi, Julian Gogh, Jackie Kay, Jonathan Falla and David Almond.The award aims to raise the profile of this rather neglected form (in Britain at least). As chair of the judges, Mark Lawson, says: This prize exists partly because many - perhaps even most - publishers and literary editors still regard the novel as the most important form of story-telling and are suspicious of short stories. ... But this year's selection makes very clear that there is no connection at all between word-count and the scale of subject matter or characterisation that can be achieved. You can find out more about the prize (which will be awarded on 23rd April) and read what some of these writers think about the short story on the Story Story website. There are also short stories by leading writers for you to download for free as well as plenty of information about writing the short story.
Also announced was the shortlist for one of the most interesting awards of the year, the Ondaatje Prize (founded by Christopher Ondaatje and awarded by the Royal Society of Literature to the book, in any genre, which best invokes the spirit of a place).
Coleridge biographer Richard Holmes describes what the judges were looking for:
It is much more than a mere physical description of a landscape or cityscape. It is more than an exotic landscape or local colour. ... It is a particular kind of rootedness that may exist in geography, history, memory, or in particular people. We have looked for books that take us on some kind of journey, and favoured those that have that indefinable quality; an accumulated atmosphere; a power to haunt the reader long after the last page is turned.
The selected books include memoir, a novel, biography and exploration of ideas:
Anne Applebaum - Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps
Jonathan Bate - John Clare
Susan Elderkin - The Voices
Robert Macfarlane- Mountains of the Mind: A History of Fascination
Bryan Magee - Clouds of Glory: A Hoxton Childhood
Louisa Waugh - Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village
The prize will be presented on 18 May.
More award news to come!


Kenny Mah said...

I hope Kureishi wins; I think his short stories are heartbreaking. Reading them, I often feel as though I'm a divorced fellow myself though I've never been married. That's what great writers do to you! :)

Janet said...

A fellow fan! :) I love Kureishi myself, Kenny, but I have to say I did not like Weddings and Beheadings. When I first read it, I thought, he's getting lazy now that he's a star! But of course, still a big fan, read all his books. ;)

Kenny Mah said...

Yes, we shared this same conversation at Dina's book launch, didn't we? Aww, every writer slips sometimes... We forgive for we are faithful...

The Visitor said...

wow, where can i buy Mountains Of The Mind???

bibliobibuli said...

kenny, janet - am a kureishi fan too and have read most of this books ... but not this story

visitor - i guess it will be heading our way quite soon, at least at kino. i want to read it too ... and several others on this list. damn these book awards.

victoria g. said...

Sorry to break the news, but you've been doing a bit of time travelling. Your Ondaatje short list is actually that from the prize's first year, 2004. This year's shortlist includes Libyan novelist Hisham Matar.

Re the Kureishi story, it can be read at