Friday, December 04, 2009

Literary Winners

Have to some catching up to do with letting you know about recent winners of literary prizes.

Petina Gappah has won the 2009 Guardian First Book Award for her short story collection An Elegy for Easterly. Claire Armistead, chair of the judges, praised the books as a:
...humane and disarmingly funny mosaic of life in Zimbabwe
You can enjoy the first lines from each story on Petina's website, and read about her feelings on winning the prize on her blog.

Debut novelist Evie Wyld beat some pretty fierce competition (including Booker winner Aravind Adiga and Orange Prize winner Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) to win the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize 2009.

After the Fire, a Still Small Voice is :
... set in eastern Australia and tells a story of fathers and sons, their wars and the things that they will never know about each other.
Louise Doughty, chair of Judges, described the novel as :
... a remarkable book. A sometimes poignant, sometimes comic story of a father and son who have so much in common but never quite connect, it is awash with fine images that linger in the mind. Wyld’s choice of subject matter is both brave and wide-ranging, from the wars in Korea and Vietnam to the back country of Eastern Australia, Wyld captures the inflections of male speech and male bonding in a way that feels both acute and realistic. Most importantly, she writes brilliantly, able to paint a picture or create a convincing encounter with a few deft, evocative strokes, in a prose style worthy of our very best writers. There is nothing 'first novelish' about this first novel. It's a fantastically mature book, never showy, a slow burn that drags the reader in.
Wyld was one of Granta's Voices of 2008, and you can catch her talking about her book on YouTube.

Then there's the infamous Bad Sex Award in fiction, which I mentioned a few days back. This year it was won by Jonathan Littell. One extract from The Kindly Ones that the judges felt merited the award compares a woman's genitalia and :
a Gorgon's head ... a motionless Cyclops whose single eye never blinks.
But the award is all about schoolboy sniggering, suggests Oliver Marre in The Telegraph :
It is funny – and also quite satisfying – to see the winner of the Prix Goncourt tittered at like this but the fact remains that his description of sex wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t worse, say, than his description of love or violence when taken out of context.
David Hewson has a very good piece on his blog called Do We Need Sex in Fiction, which I think every potential novelist, wanting to avoid the pitfalls, should read.

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