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Mary Gordon Wins The Story Prize for 2006
with The Stories of Mary Gordon

Patrick O'Keeffe
Mary Gordon
Mary Gordon was named winner of The Story Prize for 2006 with The Stories of Mary Gordon (Pantheon Books), a collection spanning some 30 years of her writing. The Story Prize annually honors an author of an outstanding collection of short fiction, and Gordon received $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl at an awards ceremony held in New York City on February 28, 2007. Finalists, taking away a $5,000 prize each, were Rick Bass for The Lives of Rocks, (Houghton Mifflin) and George Saunders for In Persuasion Nation (Riverhead).

The Stories of Mary Gordon comprises 22 new and previously uncollected stories along with 19 stories from Temporary Shelter, Gordon's only other volume of short stories, published in 1987. The opening story of the winning collection is "City Life," first published in the literary journal Ploughshares and recipient of an O. Henry first prize award in 1997. Gordon is also the author of six novels, a book of novellas, and various non-fiction work.

Prior to the announcement of a winner, The Story Prize event featured all three finalists reading selections from their books, followed by onstage interviews with Larry Dark, Director of The Story Prize and frequent short story anthology editor. Gordon read the humorous "My Podiatrist Tells Me a Story About a Boy and a Dog," wherein the dog is actually a wolf, and commented afterward, "It was given to me almost verbatim."

When Dark asked if she had seen an arc over time in putting these stories together, Gordon replied, "As I got older, I gave myself permission to play."

Born in 1949, Gordon has been writing creatively for all of her life, spurred by her father, who was later the subject of her 1996 memoir, The Shadow Man: A Daughter’s Search for Her Father. "I think the short story is more like a poem than a novel," she told Dark - a particularly interesting comment given the fact that this author often notes during interviews that she considered herself a poet up until her mid-twenties.

In addition to writing, Gordon teaches at New York's Barnard College, where she is a Millicent C. McIntosh professor of English and chairwoman of the English department. She is also the recipient of a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Academy Award for Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters.

Dark and Story Prize founder Julie Lindsey selected the three finalists from among 65 books of short fiction published (down from 82 last year) by 45 publishers and imprints in 2006. The finalists emerged from among writers such as Charles D'Ambrosio, Deborah Eisenberg, Edward Jones, Antonia Nelson, and Joyce Carol Oates, among others. Judging the winner were Edwidge Danticat, the inaugural winner of The Story Prize (2004) for The Dew Breaker; Ron Hogan, who covers the publishing industry for the literary blogs and Galleycat; and Mitchell Kaplan, an independent bookseller, past American Booksellers Association president, and founder of the Miami, Florida area Books & Books stores.

Established in 2004, The Story Prize is restricted to collections (containing at least two stories and/or novellas) by a living author, written in English. Eligible books must be the first publication of the work in the U.S. during a calendar year, in either hardcover or paperback, available for purchase by the general public. Collections must also include work previously unpublished in book form. Entries for 2007 are now being accepted.

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The Book

Publisher's description:
The masterly stories of Mary Gordon return us to the pleasure of this writer’s craft and to her monumental talent as an observer of character and of the ever-fading American Dream. These pieces encompass the pre- and postwar Irish American family life she circles in the early Temporary Shelter series, as well as a wealth of new fiction that brings her contemporary characters into middle age; it is their turn to face bodily decline, mortality, and the more complex anxieties of modern life. Gordon captures the sharp scent of feelings as they shift, the shape of particular lives in their hope and incomprehensibility.

In “The Neighborhood,” a seven-year-old who has lost her father finds birthday parties, with their noisy games and spun-sugar roses on fancy cakes, her greatest trial. “City Life” explores the dark side of Manhattan apartment living. “Intertextuality” proposes a dream meeting between Proust’s characters and the author’s aging grandmother. Throughout, Gordon’s surprising path to the center of a story is as much a part of the tale as the self-understanding her characters achieve in the process: “What were they all, any of them, feeling?” one narrator ventures. “This was the sort of question no one in my family would ask. Feelings were for others: the weak, the idle. We were people who got on with things.”

With their powerful insights into how we make do, both socially and privately, these stories are a treasure of American fiction. Each is a joy to read and a chance to savor Gordon’s clear vision: her ability to reveal at every turn what we need and what we wish for, and her willingness, always, to address what comes of such precious wishes.


For more information, including application forms and further details about qualifications for The Story Prize, please visit the official website: learn

Listen to the WNYC New York Public Radio Leonard Lopate Show program entitled "Short Story Writers Compare Notes," for interviews with the three finalists for The Story Prize 2006. Also listen to KCRW Bookworm host Michael Silverblatt's interview with Mary Gordon.

Visit, a website set up by the author's grown children as a birthday present to her.

"About Mary Gordon: A Profile," by Don Lee for Plougshares online.

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