In a blog in The Guardian on Monday, Nicholas Lezard takes to task the judges of this year's Frank O'Connor award for short stories. The cause of his displeasure was their decision to dispense with a short list and simply give the prize to Jhumpa Lahiri for her collection "Unaccustomed Earth" (reviewed by the Monitor on 4/1/08).
The reason, the judges explained, for their rush to judgment, was that it was absolutely clear that Lahiri would win and they felt there was no point in putting other nominees through the suspenseful process of being shortlisted if there was no chance that they would win.
As Lezard makes clear, however (along with the readers who have commented on his post), being on the short list is an honor in itself, and this year those authors have been deprived of that pleasure. In addition, in a world where short story writers receive only slightly more attention than poets, it's a rare opportunity for publicity. That, too, has been denied them this year.
No one seems to be questioning the excellence of "Unaccustomed Earth" or Lahiri's worthiness to be this year's Frank O'Connor awardee. But it is a shame that it's the judges getting all of the attention this year instead of the other authors.