So, that’s the entire shortlist blogged. The first thing to say is that the judges put together a very good list; certainly I wouldn’t begrudge any of the five stories their place. David Constantine was the winner, but, for me, it would come down to a choice between the stories by Aminatta Forna and Jon McGregor. And, much as I appreciate the subtlety of McGregor’s psychological portrait, I think the elegance and economy of Forna’s telling gives her story the edge.
The shortest of the Award nominees and not, to be honest, one that says ‘award-winner’ to me on its own terms; it’s good, yes, but it doesn’t knock my socks off. A couple take afternoon tea at a seaside hotel; she has brought him to admire a frieze there; he can’t appreciate it, because he refuses to separate the artwork from the criminal actions of the artist. Simmering beneath this immediate argument is a wider difference in worldview, exemplified in the text by the lengthy, discursive passages associated with the woman (such as the opening, when she admires the graceful movements of surfers out at sea), and the man’s terser dialogue. Constantine’s story is an effective and economical portrait of the central couple’s relationship; but it strikes me as good rather than excellent.
Tomorrow is National Short Story Day; to mark the occasion, I’m blogging the shortlist of this year’s BBC National Short Story Award – namely, these stories:
The above titles will turn into links as I make my way down the list.
What I won’t be doing, however, is trying to predict the winner, because that was announced at the end of last month. David Constantine’s story was declared the winner; as it’s first on the list, I’ll be interested to see what standard it sets for the rest.
EDIT, 21st Dec: I’ve now written a concluding post in which I pick my winner.