Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pearlman Wins PEN/Malamud Award

You know from my past posts that I'm a big fan of the short story genre. But there's a gap in my reading, someone I somehow have overlooked in my reading of short stories. But today I just got a big reminder to get busy, as Edith Pearlman has been honored with the 24th annual PEN/Malamud Award from the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, given to honor a writer's contribution to the short fiction form.

Pearlman has written more than 250 stories published in four books. Her most recent, Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories, was published in 2011 by Lookout Books. It looks fabulous to me. But don't take my word for it. Especially since I haven't read it yet. And because I'm a sucker for well-produced trade paperbacks with French flaps. How about this, from Ann Patchett: "Binocular Vision should be the book with which Edith Pearlman casts off her secret-handshake status and takes up her rightful position as a national treasure. Put her stories beside those of John Updike and Alice Munro. That's where they belong."

Or this from Roxana Robinson: "Pearlman's view of the world is large and compassionate, delivered through small, beautifully precise moments. These quiet elegant stories add something significant to the literary landscape."

Or this from Anthony Doerr: "If you read, write, or teach short fiction -- if you believe gorgeous, scrupulously made literature nourishes the soul -- then you must read Edith Pearlman." Ok, I get the hint!

Pearlman's fiction has won three O. Henry Prizes and has appeared three times in Best American Short Stories, twice in The Pushcart Prize, and once in New Stories from the South. She has also published short essays and travel writing. She is a New Englander by birth and preference and lives in Massachusetts with her husband. She has worked in a computer firm and a soup kitchen -- not sure if that was simultaneous or not.

Here is what the author herself has to say (yes, cribbed from her website): At readings I welcome the inevitable question: where do you get your ideas? My ideas come from musings, from observation, from memory; from reading, from travel, from movies, from anecdotes heard or overheard, faces on the subway and rooms seen through a window. They are invented and borrowed and stolen. Some particular interests of mine are inter-species liaisons; asexuals, who get scanted by writers; and accommodation – to circumstances, to personal limitations, to the claims of family, to place.
I am slow. A sentence often takes an hour to compose before I throw it out. What can you do?

Previous winners of the PEN/Malamud Award include Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, Edward P. Jones, John Updike, Eudora Welty, and Joyce Carol Oates -- not bad company!

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