The Story Prize ceremony was held last night at The New School. Fans of the short story were treated to readings by and interviews with the three finalists: Jhumpa Lahiri (for Unaccustomed Earth), Joe Meno (for Demons in the Spring), and Tobias Wolff (for Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories). Jhumpa Lahiri read from the exquisite “Heaven-Hell,” Joe Meno from the whimsical “Frances the Ghost,” and the legendary Tobias Wolff from his famous story “Bullet in the Brain”.
In the interviews with Story Prize Director Larry Dark on stage last night, Lahiri mentioned her love for the stories of the incomparable Mavis Gallant and noted that she set out to try shifts in point-of-view within single stories in this collection because she loves the way Gallant does that in her work. Joe Meno made an impassioned case for “books being books”. His beautifully designed collection, which includes illustrations from various artists in Chicago, is what he called an “anti-Kindle” book. Reading it is such a tactile experience that it reminds you that books are artifacts (not just texts that can be read on screen). And Wolff compared perfect short stories to snowflakes. It was an apt simile: the best stories do crystallize in their own unique form.
After the readings and interviews, Julie Lindsey (founder of the Story Prize) announced the winner. A gracious Tobias Wolff took home the prize ($20,000 and an engraved silver bowl) and the other two finalists pocketed $5000 each. (It’s always good to see story writers rewarded for their hard, underappreciated work.) Our own Hannah Tinti was one of the three judges this year. Judging this contest was no easy task, of course, but you, dear readers, are the real winners because you get to enjoy the collections. Buy all three. And while you’re at it, buy the ones on the short list too. They are all filled with snowflakes.
One Story Editor Hannah Tinti with Tobias Wolff