Friday, May 06, 2016

Counternarratives' British Life + Saroyan Prize Short List

This April, Fitzcarraldo Editions, a new, small and vibrant publisher, issued Counternarratives in the UK and British Commonwealth countries--in its enchanting Yves Klein International Blue dust jackets--and since then, the collection has found not only a new set of readers, but spurred a new set of reviews. Two micro reviews appeared in the British publications The Lady and Buzz Magazine, the latter of which named Counternarratives its Book-of-the-Month for April 2016. Thanks so much to both reviewers for their reviews!

The collection received a different kind of mention in The Telegraph when critic Anthony Cummins included it in a May 1, 2016 article entitled "Clear-eyed and cutting edge: has the short story come of age?" In this short essay he discusses contemporary short fiction on both sides of the Atlantic, arguing that short stories may be more commercially viable and aesthetically daring on US shores, but that some British writers are, like their American peers, showing what short stories might do.

Among the writers he essays are some well known for their play with short fictional form and content: Helen Oyeyemi, Greg Jackson, Philip Hensher, and Mark Haddon. Into this mostly British mix he adds a side of Counternarratives, calling it "postmodernism with blood in its veins," and goes on to say that "This is no average work of historical fiction...rather, it’s a set of complex and unpredictable tales about slavery and racism." It's quite gratifying to note the book's distinctive approach to the short story form, its evident post-modernism, and its against-the-grain approach to historical fiction conventions. Many thanks to Mr. Cummins, and to The Telegraph.


One very pleasant surprise came earlier this week when I learned that Counternarratives had made the short list for the biennial 2016 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, administered by the Stanford University Libraries. The Saroyan Prize takes its name from the late, award-winning playwright and fiction writer, and the 14 other books on the short list include works by Amina Gautier and T. Geronimo Johnson, among other very talented writers, and prior recipients have included Kiese Laymon, Daniel Orozco, Rivka Galchen, George Hagen, Nicole Krauss, and Jonathan Safran Foer, so I'm not getting my hopes up, but it is nice to receive this level of recognition. The awards will not be announced until later in the year. 

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