February 11, 2014

You’re welcome, world literature! U.S. authors dominate Folio shortlist


Happy first birthday, Folio Prize. Love, America.

Happy first birthday, Folio Prize. Love, America.

Remember when the Folio Society came up with a new prize last year, and this rumor circulated that the Man Booker was under pressure to open up its award outside of the Commonwealth? And the Brits said that Jonathan Franzen‘s eligibility would be the downfall of literary culture, but then they changed their rules, getting everybody worked up?

Just to show ’em, the Folio list—announced yesterday—is 62.5% American. Five authors are currently living in the U.S., and the other three are from the UK, Ireland, and Canada. Sergio De La Pava is of Colombian heritage, but resides in New York, which means he tips the whole thing in America’s favor.

The nominees are not all Franzen, either. Five out of the eight nominated works were written by women. (You knew the Canadian author was Anne Carson before you even looked at the list, didn’t you?)

The prize, worth $65,500 (£40,000, but since Americans have a 5/8 chance of winning, let’s talk U.S. dollars) was established last year. Its aim is to “celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible,” and, ostensibly, to shame the Booker Prize committee into reading even more books.

An academy of 187 authors and critics are asked to choose the top three works of fiction they have read this year, and then the titles are ranked numerically. Five committee members must then bring the number down to eight. This year’s judges included Michael Chabon and Sarah Hall. The winner of the Folio Prize will be announced on March 10.

The shortlist is:

Red Doc> by Anne Carson

Schroder by Amity Gaige

Last Friends by Jane Gardam

Benediction by Kent Haruf

The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Tenth of December by George Saunders

You’ll recognize some of these titles from other prizes: Red Doc> was on the shortlist for the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry; A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing won the Goldsmiths Prize last year; A Naked Singularity won a PEN Literary Award. But the U.S. is taking the cake. You heard it here first.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.