So, in case you hadn’t heard, the 2013 Man Booker Prize has been awarded to writer Lydia Davis. The Prize, worth a grand £60,000, is “awarded for an achievement in fiction on the world stage.”
This is exciting news for those of us lamenting the tendency for Brits to underestimate the power of the short story. The writer, described as “poetic” and “minimalist” shows that the tide is certainly turning for this so often overlooked word-form.
Chair of the Man Booker judges, literary critic and scholar Sir Christopher Ricks, comments: “Lydia Davis’ writings fling their lithe arms wide to embrace many a kind. Just how to categorise them? Should we simply concur with the official title and dub them stories? Or perhaps miniatures? Anecdotes? Essays? Jokes? Parables? Fables? Texts? Aphorisms, or even apophthegms? Prayers, or perhaps wisdom literature? Or might we settle for observations?”
It’s an intriguing puzzle. As a journalist, I’m afraid I’m partial to categories – they provide shortcuts that help us to more easily understand what we’re being told, freeing up space for emotional response. To me, short stories seem often to be an examination of small, easily missed things that add up to the enormity of the shared human experience.
But, having just read the Lydia Davis story ‘Letter To A Hotel Manager’ published on the Telegraph website, I admit I’m not entirely sure how to describe it.
Regardless, Lydia’s win is the perfect excuse to celebrate short story writing in all its lengths and forms, so huzzah!