Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Lahiri Leapfrogs List

Jhumpa Lahiri has won this year's Frank o'Connor Short story prize with Unaccustomed Earth. As Lydsay Irvine in the Guardian points out, the book has been something of a publishing sensation, immediately hitting number one spot in the New York Times's fiction charts. Her first collection of short fiction Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer in 2000. (Is any publisher going to spin the tired line about short fiction not selling, after this?)

So no surprises there, really.

The shocker though is that the judges, unanimous in their decision decided to go straight to the announcement, without bothering with a shortlist.

The reason :
With a unanimous winner at this early stage, we decided it would be a sham to compose a shortlist and put five other writers through unnecessary stress and suspense. Not only were the jury unanimous in their choice of Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth as the winner, they were unanimous in their belief that so outstanding was Lahiri’s achievement in this book that no other title was a serious contender.
Nicholas Lezard on the Guardian blog calls it :
... the unpardonable sin of failing to cater for that section of the literary public - and indeed the non-literary public - that likes a flutter.
And I have to agree. The whole point of literary awards is the exposure that they bring to new writing and often hitherto unheard of authors. Cut out the shortlist and you cut out a lot of potential publicity, not to mention a lot of fun for the reader. In other words, perlease bring on the sham!!

But looking on the bright side, Wena can now at least put a sticker on her book saying "nominated for ..." and in that sense stand proudly alongside authors like Anne Enright and Roddy Doyle.

Now to rush out to buy Unaccustomed Earth which just has to be that good!


Chet said...

I bought my copy from Borders with a 20% discount with the purchase of another book.

Ted Mahsun said...

Sharon, I would have thought Unaccustomed Earth would have already been in your possession knowing how much you loved her first collection of short stories!

bibliobibuli said...

thanks chet.

not yet, ted. it's been on my must-buy list for a while but it hasn't jumped out at me in mph and i have been avoiding bookshops recently as i tend to go a bit mad.

time to go get it.

eric's series of interviews have also left me hungry to buy others on the longlist. am on anne enright's collection at the mo.

Women Rule Writer said...

There's been a bit of opinion bandied about on my blog about this, if you'd like to check it out!
Saturday the 5th of July's post.

bibliobibuli said...

women rule writer - thanks a lot for the link. nice to meet someone made keen for the short story too!

mee said...

I'm a bit skeptical. I just read Interpreter of Maladies. They're pretty good, but not out-of-the-world fantastic.

Fei said...

I read the book, I love it! I'm glad that Lahiri won the prize. Looking forward to her next book.