Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction announced and Atticus Lish takes home the big one

Atticus Lish has won the 2015 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction with his novel, Preparation for the Next Life.

In announcing the award, PEN/Faulkner describes Lish’s book as “a document of the undocumented and an unlikely love story between a Chinese Muslim immigrant, Zou Lei, and a traumatized Iraq War veteran, Skinner… [which] forces readers to look squarely at a host of the failures plaguing contemporary American society. Lish’s prose is dogged and steadfast as he describes his characters’ raw reality and the desperate lives they struggle to lead.” (

Lish will be honored on May 2, 2015 at an awards ceremony. He and the
four finalists will read from their work.

The four finalists for the prize were Jeffery Renard Allen for Song of the Shank; Jennifer Clement for Prayers for the Stolen, Emily St. John Mandel for Station Eleven and Jenny Offill for Dept. of Speculation.

Jefferey Renard Allen’s Song of the Shank is a “wide-ranging, fabulist-infused narrative that whorls in and around the life of 19th century piano prodigy Tom Wiggins, better known as Blind Tom. Born into slavery in 1840s Georgia, Tom’s ability to play a piece of music after only hearing it once propels him into a world of opportunistic managers, international stardom, and the teeming tensions of Reconstruction era New York.” (

In Jennifer Clement’s Prayers for the Stolen, “baby girls are called Boy to keep drug traffickers from knowing they exist. Once they hit puberty, they rub their skin with hot pepper and color their teeth with black markers so the traffickers will find them too ugly to steal….Clement’s language is spare and beautiful, full of humor and of the idiosyncrasies of Mexican Spanish, which she uses to create a vernacular as original as her protagonist.” (

Emily St. John Mandel “paints a devastating portrait of the future in her dystopian novel Station Eleven. A vicious strain of the flu originates in Georgia, spreads across the globe in the span of weeks, and wipes out most of the human population. The novel jumps between the pre-Georgian Flu world and the frightening one that replaces it.” (

In Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill “chronicles the marriage of a writer wife and radio broadcaster husband through sharp and beautiful fragments of prose, charting the couple’s everyday joys and minor tragedies from the first moments of falling in love to surviving bed bugs in Brooklyn.” (

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