The 2014 Story Prize was awarded to Syracuse University professor George Saunders for his critically acclaimed and commercially successful 2013 short story collection, Tenth of December. The other two nominees were Andrea Barrett for Archangel (W.W. Norton) and Rebecca Lee for Bobcat and Other Stories (Algonquin Books). Saunders takes home the $20,000 prize; Barrett and Lee each received $5,000. Larry Dark, Director of the Story Prize, and Julie Lindsey, founder of the prize, read the 96 books that were submitted for consideration. They selected the three finalists, which were then read by the three judges (Stephen Ennis, Director of the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin; award-winning author Antonya Nelson; and Rob Spillman, editor of literary magazine Tin House).
Saunders’ selection was not surprising, considering that Tenth of December is one of the rare story collections to make the New York Times bestseller list. The book received a flurry of rave reviews and made virtually every top 10 list for 2013. Saunders’s unique stories alternate between realistic takes on people struggling to make sense of their lives in a depressed American economy and society and twisted tales set in a near future that takes society’s current anomie and obsession with technology to their logical conclusions. His best stories are undeniably brilliant and often darkly funny.
Saunders published six earlier collections that steadily enlarged his fanatical cult following, and December reached critical mass, turning him into a literary star last year. He won the 2013 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story and was included in Time’s 2013 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Saunders teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University, where he earlier earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing.
Barrett and Lee’s books also received unanimously positive reviews. Barrett is best known for her story collection Ship Fever, which won the 1996 National Book Award. Her Servants of the Map was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Bobcat was Lee’s debut collection and appeared to stun most reviewers and readers with its maturity of vision and flawless writing. Lee is a young writer to watch. Awards are clearly in her future. My review of Bobcat from August 2013 can be found here: http://wp.me/p3EtWm-3k
More on the Story Prize here: http://www.thestoryprize.org/.