The 10th Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize – Shortlist Announced!

Published March 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to a bit of a different post here on bibliobeth today. I’d like to talk to you about the Dylan Thomas Prize which has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. It is the world’s largest literary prize open to young writers of 39 and under from all nations who are writing in English with a grand prize of £30,000 and this year, will also commemorate sixty-five years since the death of Welsh writer Dylan Thomas.

This prize really appealed to me as it celebrates all forms of literature, not just novels – including poetry, plays and short stories. But without further ado – let’s get on to the shortlist. I’ll be introducing the six authors, the book and synopsis, and why I might be interested in reading the book.

What’s it all about?:

A heartstopping, beautifully written debut, telling the story of one girl’s search for freedom.

“You think you’re invincible. You think you won’t ever miss. We need to put the fear on you. You need to surrender yourself to death before you ever begin, and accept your life as a state of grace, and then and only then will you be good enough.’

At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall; That chaos is coming and only the strong will survive it; That her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him.

She doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school; Why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see; Why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done. And what her daddy will do when he finds out …

Sometimes strength is not the same as courage.
Sometimes leaving is not the only way to escape.
Sometimes surviving isn’t enough.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Gabriel was born in New Mexico and raised on the Mendocino coast by two mothers. He received his B.A. from Willamette University in 2010, and after graduation spent two seasons leading youth trail crews in the backcountry of the Pacific Northwest. Tallent lives in Salt Lake City. My Absolute Darling was called “the year’s must-read novel” by The Times and “a masterpiece” by Stephen King.

Am I excited?:

You bet I am! This novel has been one of my most anticipated reads for this year and I just haven’t got around to it yet. The fact it’s on this short-list however has just pushed me to want to read it quicker.

What’s it all about?:

One hot August day a family drives to a mountain clearing to collect birch wood. Jenny, the mother, is in charge of lopping any small limbs off the logs with a hatchet. Wade, the father, does the stacking. The two daughters, June and May, aged nine and six, drink lemonade, swat away horseflies, bicker, and sing snatches of songs as they while away the time.

But then something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction.

In a story told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in Idaho.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Emily grew up in the Idaho Panhandle, on Hoodoo mountain. Her fiction has appeared in Zoetrope, One Story and the Virginia Quarterly Review. A winner of a 2015 O. Henry Award and a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, she now teaches creative writing at the University of Colorado, Denver. Idaho is her first novel.      

Am I excited?:

I’ve actually already read Idaho, you can read my review HERE. I loved parts of it and was confused by other parts but you can’t deny the writing is absolutely incredible.

What’s it all about?:

A sharply intelligent novel about two college students and the strange, unexpected connection they forge with a married couple.

Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed, and darkly observant. A college student and aspiring writer, she devotes herself to a life of the mind–and to the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi, her best friend and comrade-in-arms. Lovers at school, the two young women now perform spoken-word poetry together in Dublin, where a journalist named Melissa spots their potential. Drawn into Melissa’s orbit, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband. Private property, Frances believes, is a cultural evil–and Nick, a bored actor who never quite lived up to his potential, looks like patriarchy made flesh. But however amusing their flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy neither of them expect.As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally even with Bobbi. Desperate to reconcile herself to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances’s intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment.

Written with gem-like precision and probing intelligence, Conversations With Friends is wonderfully alive to the pleasures and dangers of youth.”

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Sally was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin, where she graduated from an MA at Trinity College in 2013. Her work has appeared in GrantaThe White Review, The Dublin ReviewThe Stinging Fly, Kevin Barry’s Stonecutter and The Winter Pages anthology. In 2017 she was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for ‘Mr Salary’. Conversations with Friends is her first novel.

Am I excited?:

I’m definitely intrigued. I’ve heard a couple of mixed reviews about Conversations With Friends but the majority of reviews I’ve read have been overwhelmingly positive. I’m curious to see if I’m going to enjoy it as much as others clearly have.

What’s it all about?:

From “one of Britain’s most original young writers” (The Observer), a blistering account of a marriage in crisis and a portrait of a woman caught between withdrawal and self-assertion, depression and rage.

Neve, the novel’s acutely intelligent narrator, is beset by financial anxiety and isolation, but can’t quite manage to extricate herself from her volatile partner, Edwyn. Told with emotional remove and bracing clarity, First Love is an account of the relationship between two catastrophically ill-suited people walking a precarious line between relative calm and explosive confrontation.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Gwendoline was born in London in 1979. She is the author of the novels Cold Water (winner of a Betty Trask Award), Sick Notes, Joshua Spassky (winner of the 2008 Somerset Maugham Award, shortlisted for the 2007 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), Opposed Positions and First Love, which was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction, the Gordon Burn Prize and the Goldsmith’s Prize.

Am I excited?:

I have to be honest and say this is the one book out of the short-list I’m the least sure about. It first came to my attention when it was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction last year and I was interested then but heard mixed opinions. However, I do like to make up my own mind about a book so I still might give it a shot!

What’s it all about?:

In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.

Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Carmen is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared in the New YorkerGrantaGuernicaTin House, VICE, Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, and elsewhere. Her Body and Other Parties was a finalist for the National Book Award and Kirkus Prize. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the CINTAS Foundation, the Speculative Literature Foundation, the University of Iowa and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is the Artist in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, and lives in Philadelphia with her wife.

Am I excited?:

Yes, yes, yes. I already own this book and am just awaiting a spot in my Short Stories Challenge to slot it in. I’ve heard wonderful things and everything about that synopsis is my cup of tea. Can’t wait!

What’s it all about?:

*Shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Prize 2017*

*Selected as a 2017 Book of the Year in the Guardian and Daily Telegraph*

‘Urban and urbane, it’s a magnificent debut’ Daily Telegraph

‘A brilliant debut – a tender, nostalgic and at times darkly hilarious exploration of black boyhood, masculinity and grief – from one of my favourite writers’ – Warsan Shire 

Translating as ‘initiation’, kumukanda is the name given to the rites a young boy from the Luvale tribe must pass through before he is considered a man. The poems of Kayo Chingonyi’s remarkable debut explore this passage: between two worlds, ancestral and contemporary; between the living and the dead; between the gulf of who he is and how he is perceived.

Underpinned by a love of music, language and literature, here is a powerful exploration of race, identity and masculinity, celebrating what it means to be British and not British, all at once.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Kayo was born in Zambia in 1987, and moved to the UK at the age of six. He is the author of two pamphlets, and a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry. In 2012, he was awarded a Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, and was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in 2015.

Am I excited?:

I’ve heard great things about this collection so yes, I am. I’m a bit of a poetry novice but am trying my best to get acquainted with more poetry and this seems the perfect collection to do that with. It was also short-listed for the Costa Poetry Prize last year so I’m certain it’s going to be incredible.

Professor Dai Smith CBE of Swansea University, chair of the judges said: “The shortlist of the 2018 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is an amazing showcase of young writing talent from across the globe. There are two startling and searing novels from contemporary America; two other novels which engage in a forensic examination of love and loathing, from England  and Ireland; an inventively original collection of short stories from the USA and a challenging, poised work of poetry which takes us to the core of a divided Britain. The judges will have a difficult job over the next two months to find a winner from what is already a list of winners.”
 
Personally, I think this is a fantastic, really strong short-list from a diverse group of authors. I love that it’s quite female-heavy, with four of the short-listed authors being female, and the literature selected covers such a wide range of topics that are all hugely relevant in our world today. With everything I’ve heard about each one of the works, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of them won and I’m excited to find out which one the judges will eventually select to be the winner.
The winner is in fact announced on Thursday 10th May, just before International Dylan Thomas Day on 14th May. However, if you love this short-list and fancy going to a very special event at the British Library where there will be readings from all the short-listed authors, tickets should be available soon so keep an eye out!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What do you think of the short-list? Have you read any and if so, what did you think? Or, if you happen to have read them all, which one do you think should win?
Good luck to all the authors on this short-list and a huge thank you to Rachel Kennedy at Midas PR for providing me with all the information about this prize and the authors.
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3 comments on “The 10th Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize – Shortlist Announced!

  • Great post – I’d not heard of this award before. The only one I’ve read is My Absolute Darling, and it wasn’t really to my liking lol, I don’t know if any of the others appeal to me but never say never 😉

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