Paper Cuts had a nice piece yesterday about the Story Prize and it’s three finalists Jhumpa Lahiri, Tobias Wolfe and Joe Meno. The $20,000 prize—and engraved silver bowl—went to Wolfe for his collection, Our Story Begins, last week.
The piece was about the finalist and collection that you—okay, I’m projecting, I—haven’t heard of, Mr. Meno and his collection Demons in the Spring. How often is there a mostly unheard of writer competing for such a prestigious and rich prize against such, well, prestigious and at least wealthy, writers? Pretty not often. Even “5 Under 35” nominates people with names you’re familiar with.
What makes Mr. Meno’s accomplishment even more exciting is that he’s a really interesting guy and that his publisher, the wonderful Akashic Books, gave him creative control over the final product.
According to the piece, Mr. Meno, “praised Akashic for allowing him such control over his book, down to font selection and the paper that lines the inside covers. ‘I wanted it to be an art object,’ he explained. ‘I really saw it as the anti-Kindle.’ When Dark asked him about the book’s illustrations — by 20 different artists and designers — Meno said that he had learned a lot from visual artists and sometimes preferred their company to that of writers. ‘They’re not as lugubrious or brooding,’ he said. ‘They don’t talk about the work in progress, they just do it.’”
Short story writers have had it tough for a while. So have independent publishers. Mr. Meno may not have won, but he and his people put up a great fight, and learning about him, his book and his success really made my week.