PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-05-05
  • Publisher: Anchor
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Featuring stories selected from thousands published in literary magazines,The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009is studded with great writers such as Junot Diaz, Nadine Gordimer, Ha Jin, and Paul Theroux, as well as new voices. The winning stories feature locales as diverse as post-war Vietnam, a retirement community in Cape Town, South Africa, an Egyptian desert village, and a permanently darkened New York City; the dizzying range of characters include a Russian mail-order bride in Finland, a rebellious Dominican girl in New Jersey, and a hallucinating British Gulf War veteran. The stories are accompanied by essays from the eminent jurors on their favorites, observations from the twenty winners on what inspired them, and an extensive resource list of magazines.

Author Biography

Laura Furman's work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, and other magazines. She is the founding editor of the highly regarded American Short Fiction (three-time finalist for the American Magazine Award). A professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, she teaches in the graduate James A. Michener Center for writers. She lives in Austin.



NINETY YEARS ago, The O. Henry Prize Stories was created by William Sidney Porter’s friends and colleagues to honor him and the form in which he wrote.

Since 1919 there have been a few years without the publication of an O. Henry Prize Stories collection, but still, in an industry where many books enjoy the longevity of a mayfly, lasting for ninety years is a superb accomplishment.

Our annual collection is an institution among writers and readers, who look for it each spring. For a writer beginning what might or might not be a career, inclusion is both recognition of the particular story and warm encouragement to keep writing. One of the collection’s first stated goals was to “stimulate younger authors,” but even for writers who have long and distinguished careers, inclusion in The O. Henry Prize Stories is meaningful and even “gladdening,” as one of this year’s authors, John Burnside, said.

The O. Henry’s recognition of quality extends to the magazines that publish the prize story. The New Yorker, committed to publishing fiction since its beginning, has a large readership, and a smaller journal such as the New England Review only a fraction of that num ber. What matters in the long run is that a magazine continues to publish excellent fiction in its pages, stories that readers are challenged by and sometimes love.

For its readers, our prize collection is a faithful yet exciting friend. Each spring The O. Henry Prize Stories offers a renewed engagement with the immediacy of the short story. This is what O. Henry’s friends and colleagues hoped when they conceived the unique idea of publishing a book annually to draw attention to an outstanding group of short stories and short-story writers.

In the ninetieth year since its founding, the O. Henry Prize differs from its first iteration. Instead of a committee choosing the stories, as in 1919 and for many years following, the series editor does so alone. Since 2002, the criteria for stories have widened; now the prize is open to any story if it’s originally written in English and published in a North American magazine, regardless of the citizenship of the writer. The prize stories thus come from a broader range of voices and countries—witness our current group of authors, who live in Scotland, England, South Africa, Singapore, and Canada, as well as the United States. The original system of awarding first, second, and third prizes was eventually abandoned. All twenty stories are equally prized, though separate recognition comes to the stories picked by the jurors as their favorites. There have been nine series editors, and each has tweaked the book’s form. What hasn’t changed is fidelity to the mission of The O. Henry Prize Stories stated by its founders ninety years ago, “to strengthen the art of the short story.”

Starting with this 2009 volume, the collection is to be retitled The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories in recognition of a new alliance with the PEN American Center.

PEN is an international organization devoted to the stimulation, support, and sustenance of writers and literature. Bernard Malamud, the story master to whom this year’s PEN/O. Henry is dedicated, was president of PEN from 1979 to 1981, and he wrote: “I believe in a fellowship of writers, more or less formally constituted, aware of how deeply and complexly we are concerned with, and foster, a literature as a civilizing force in an unstable world; a literature that gives flesh and bones and perhaps a brain to the politics that assails us; a literature that entices us to understand and value life.”

PEN American Center, founded in 1920, lives out its ideals in a number of ways: by defending writers who are imprisoned or in danger of imprisonment because of their work; by offering coveted awards for writers, editors, and translators; by s

Excerpted from The PEN/ O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 by Laura Furman
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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