A few bits of news and comment on awards that I like to follow:
On Tuesday, this year’s BBC National Short Story Award went to Lionel Shriver for her story ‘Kilifi Creek‘. The runner up was Zadie Smith for ‘Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets‘; the other shortlisted authors were Tessa Hadley, Francesca Rhydderch, and Rose Tremain. I hadn’t caught any of the stories prior to the announcement; but I’ve since read the Comma Press anthology, and I have to say that Smith’s story is easily my favourite of the five. Shriver’s winning piece is not really to my taste: it’s written in a (to me) fussy literary prose for which I’m increasingly losing patience. I think my tastes in reading are shifting once more.
So to the Goldsmiths Prize, for “fiction that opens up new possibilities for the novel form” – something that interests me increasingly, as my interest in straightforward realism wanes. The Prize got off to an excellent start last year, going to Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. I was really looking forward to seeing what would be selected this year, and now we have a shortlist:
- Rachel Cusk, Outline (Faber & Faber)
- Will Eaves, The Absent Therapist (CB Editions)
- Howard Jacobson, J (Jonathan Cape)
- Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake (Unbound)
- Zia Haider Rahman, In the Light of What We Know (Picador)
- Ali Smith, How to be both (Hamish Hamilton)
First impressions… Half of the titles overlap with the Booker longlist, which surprises me – I was expecting (and, to be honest, hoping for) more divergence. The Kingsnorth (which is the only book of these that I’ve read) absolutely deserves to be here, and would be a worthy winner. From what I’ve heard about them, I can see the inclusion of the Smith, but am less persuaded about the Jacobson. Of the remaining three, I’m most interested in the Eaves, which I understand is written as a collage of fragments in different voices; the Cusk and Rahman, I’m undecided about. Overall, I have a nagging sense that this list is treading water a bit; it doesn’t feel as bold as I would hope. Still, there’s potential for another good result here.
Finally, a call for volunteers: following on from shadowing the IFFP and Desmond Elliott Prize earlier in the year, I’ve been asked if I’d like to shadow the JQ-Wingate Prrze (“the only UK award to recognise writing by Jewish and non-Jewish writers that explore themes of Jewish concern in any of its myriad possible forms either explicitly or implicitly”). Would anyone like to take part? The timeframe would be from November (shortlist) to February (winner); six books, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, Anglophone or translated. Let me know if you’re interested!