2014 Story Prize Winner

Tenth of December largeTonight they announced that Tenth of December, by George Saunders, has won this years Story Prize (click here for the official post at The Story Prize website).

I have read most of the stories in Tenth of December, and I liked maybe half of them. The rest felt like he was relying on a formula, or, if not a formula, a style that has become his trademark. I think it’s time I finished the book, though, and saw whether I’ve come around.

The other finalists were Bobcat, by Rebecca Lee, and Archangel, by Andrea Barrett. I’ve been working my way through those and my vote would have gone to Archangel. Still, congratulations to George Saunders!

4 thoughts on “2014 Story Prize Winner”

  1. Paul says:

    I have read the entire collection and listened to the audiobook, as well. Hearing him read the stories made a huge difference for me in appreciating some of them.

    I hear the “formulaic” complaint about him often, but couldn’t the same thing be said of many authors (Flannery O’Connor, Lorrie Moore, Cheever, etc.) While I understand what you’re saying, I’m coming around to the idea that he just writes very effectively using a very distinct style. It’s not that he hasn’t tried other stuff, it’s more that he’s nailed a certain way of writing.

  2. Trevor says:

    I think what I mean by formulaic is that it often feels to me that he’s putting them together by numbers. He’s even said at times that he begins with a strange idea and then, as it gets going, looks to see where he can put in the heart. I know a lot of authors do the same thing, it’s just that with this collection I started to feel that I could see right where he was making these decisions.

    That said, I have listened to him read a few of these and it was an excellent experience.

    All that said, I wonder how much of this is that I wasn’t enjoying them and started looking for problems. All of this was before the collection became the lauded book it is now, so it wasn’t a reaction to the hype, but it could have been a reaction to my own hype — I used to love his work!

  3. Paul says:

    I definitely see what you mean. I’ve gone back and forth on him several times but am currently enjoying his stuff quite a bit. Admittedly, part of it could be that I saw him at a reading recently and he just seems so damn nice!
    Have you read the story “Sticks” yet? It’s only a few paragraphs long, but I find myself thinking about it a lot.

  4. Archer says:

    For what it’s worth, quite a few reviewers have accused Lorrie Moore of treading water with her latest collection too. It makes me wonder. I had the same impression with Tenth of December — that the stories were somehow less fresh and fine-tuned than the ones in, say, Pastoralia. Is it possible that we are more prone to accuse comic writers of being formulaic? Because it’s true, authors like Alice Munro and William Trevor have used the same style throughout their careers, and seem to get those criticism far less (though they do get them too).

    I will mention that I liked Saunders’ single story “Fox 8″ more than anything in December. The use of that childish animal voice is a really hard thing to pull of and I think he did it beautifully. I wish he’d included it in the collection, though I can also see how he might have believed it didn’t quite fit.

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