March 27, 2019
This year’s Story Prize goes to Groff’s Florida, honors Brinkley and Eisenberg
by Alex Primiani
If you’ve got a good story to tell, then there may be a lot of money to make off it. No, I’m not talking about that Cut interview with Jessica Knoll that might’ve left you feeling a little annoyed, or inspired, perhaps vindicated for whatever thoughts you may have on the whole “publishing business model.” (Disclaimer: I still don’t know how I feel about it!!)
I’m talking about well-deserved recognition for exciting works of fiction that provoke and inspire—like the recent The Story Prize going to Lauren Groff’s short story collection Florida (Riverhead Books). According to Lisa Peet at Library Journal, on March 6 Groff went home with the top prize, an engraved silver bowl, and $20,000.
The judges for this year’s Prize were Jo Ann Beard, author of In Zanesville and The Boys of My Youth; Ron Charles, book critic and feature writer at the Washington Post; and Veronica Santiago Liu, founder and coordinator of the collective that operates Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria.
Of Groff’s collection, the judges had this to say:
“Florida is the work of a mature writer beyond any need to impress us with her stylistic flourishes. Groff tells these stories in clear, deceptively transparent lines laced with insight, wit, and muffled terror … Each of these stories offers a complex, distinct world with its own carefully composed melody, but they’re also tuned to vibrate in response to each other.”
“Groff’s collection is a truly immersive experience … Each story builds upon the last, without being expressly linked, until by the end, the reader experiences the book the way you might experience Florida. Fierce and almost fully deconstructed now in its beauty and awfulness.”
The runner-ups—Jamel Brinkley for his very well-received A Lucky Man (Graywolf), and Deborah Eisenberg for her collection, Your Duck is My Duck (Ecco)—took home $5,000 each. Another award was given to Akil Kumarasamy for her debut collection Half Gods (Farrar), The Spotlight Award was given to a collection for exceptional merit and is worth $1,000.
For the first time in its 15 year history, the Story Prize will also publish its own collection of notable past winners, The Story Prize: Fifteen Years of Great Short Fiction by the independent publisher Catapult.
Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.