UPDATE: Congratulations to Claire Vaye Watkins for winning the 2012 Story Prize for her amazing collection, Battleborn!
The 2012 Story Prize reading and announcement of the winner is taking place today at the New School at 7:30 p.m.
In honor of the ceremony let's take a look at the finalists:
Dan Chaon was named a finalist for his collection of stories, Stay Awake.
About Stay Awake Jeff Turrentine at The Washington Post wrote:
This is horror fiction, but of an entirely different sort from what we're accustomed to. The menacing spirits in these dozen tales don't rattle chains or send teacups flying. They do, however, live up to the title of "apparition," in that they're likely to appear suddenly and without warning, and to send hearts racing…Chaon's lean, terse stories…can evoke Raymond Carver in their ability to wreak strange poetry from plain-spoken language, and Sherwood Anderson, the author's fellow Ohioan, in their sympathy for the lonely and the left behind.
At The New York Times Book Review, our own MFA faculty member Patrick McGrath wrote:
The best of [Chaon's] stories arouse a feeling of deep foreboding. Then, with the reader's realization of what's about to emerge from the shadows, comes a shock of recognition. This is the great guilty pleasure of good horror fiction: the sickening moment when the monstrosity at the heart of the story's darkness suggests itself to the eager imagination, while still withholding its true shape. Stay Awake is a superbly disquieting demonstration of that uneasy power.
Junot Díaz was named a finalist for the story collection, This Is How You Lose Her.
At The New York Times, critic Michiko Kakutani called This Is How You Lose Her:
…a miniaturist performance—a modest, musically structured riff that works variations on one main subject: a young Dominican man's womanizing and its emotional fallout…This Is How You Lose Her doesn't aspire to be a grand anatomy of love like Gabriel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera…but it gives us a small, revealing window on the subject.
Meanwhile, Leah Hager Cohen at The New York Times Book Review wrote:
…This Is How You Lose Her can stand on its own, but fans will be glad to hear that it brings back Yunior, who narrated several of the stories in Díaz's first collection, Drown…Yunior is a gorgeously full-blown character—half the time you want to comfort him, the other half you want to kick him in the pants…In the new book, as previously, Díaz is almost too good for his own good. His prose style is so irresistible, so sheerly entertaining, it risks blinding readers to its larger offerings. Yet he weds form so ideally to content that instead of blinding us, it becomes the very lens through which we can see the joy and suffering of the signature Díaz subject: what it means to belong to a diaspora, to live out the possibilities and ambiguities of perpetual insider/outsider status.
Claire Vaye Watkins was named a finalist for her collection, Battleborn.
At Publisher's Weekly, Chris Offut wrote about Battleborn:
Claire Vaye Watkins has apparently sprung fully formed into the narrow pantheon of young writers willing to take narrative risks, eschewing trend and style for depth and wisdom. Entering the varied lives is akin to watching a tightrope walker high overhead, moving with steady confidence without a net. I found no missteps, no wobbles, no hesitations. As every story ended, I exhaled a long breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. Watkins writes with precision and care, the sentences themselves as surprising as the events, the dialogue, and the spare description. On a purely formal level, these stories shatter the forward motion of time. They move easily and readily from the present to the past and even to the near future. For lack of a better term, there is a purity to the prose that is a constant pleasure to read. Watkins makes beautiful art by embracing the rigors of the short story form, considered the most difficult in literature, then tossing out the rules and inventing some of her own. She blends history and fact with fiction to create a new mythology of the American West—the untold stories of people seeking connection with the past, the land, and each other.
And Antonya Nelson, writing for The New York Times Book Review, wrote:
Whether Watkins casts a backward glance…or a contemporaneous one…her vision is brutally unsentimental. Characters dig themselves into holes—literal or figurative—and are not explicitly rescued. If they survive it's by the same means as they've so far endured: stubbornness, luck and a slim strand of hope…Readers will share in the environs of the author and her characters, be taken into the hardship of a pitiless place and emerge on the other side—wiser, warier and weathered like the landscape.
Congratulations and good luck to all the finalists. Among all the uncertainty and anticipation surrounding a prestigious prize like this, one thing can be certain: all three of these talented authors deserve the recognition they receive.
If you haven't yet bought tickets for the event today you will be able to purchase tickets at the door.