March/April 2011

The Believer Book Award

Editors’ Shortlist

The winner will be announced in the next issue.

Each year, the editors of the Believer generate a short list of the novels and story collections they thought were the strongest and most underappreciated of the year. The 2010 list appears below. In the January issue, we asked our readers to send in their nominations for the best work of fiction from 2010; their answers, along with the winner from the following short list, will appear in the May 2011 issue.

S P R A W L
by Danielle Dutton (Siglio Press)
S P R A W L by Danielle Dutton (Siglio Press) Danielle Dutton’s unnamed narrator stalks through yards, streets, and her own house with such sharp perception that everything she encounters—cake trays, the doorbell’s ring, a dead body—becomes an object in her vast and impeccable still-life. Dutton’s sentences are as taut and controlled as her narrator’s mind, and a hint at what compels both (“I locate my body by grounding it against the bodies of others”) betrays a fierce and feral searching. S P R A W L makes suburban landscapes thrilling again.

Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles
by Kira Henehan (Milkweed Editions)
Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles by Kira Henehan (Milkweed Editions) Kira Henehan’s debut has tableaux out of Raymond Roussel, language like a scatterbrained Beckett, and a beautiful disaster of a detective narrator in Finley. As our guide through this unpredictable world of kitten-eating snakes, puppet phobias, and elaborate meat trays, Finley trots out wild-eyed theories and commits one faux pas after another. Her endearing knack of not quite describing something effectively, and then commenting on said knack or anti-knack, shouldn’t make you laugh every damn time, but it does.

Next
by James Hynes (Reagan Arthur Books)
Next by James Hynes (Reagan Arthur Books) At the start of Next, James Hynes’s fifth novel, the book’s anti-hero, Kevin Quinn, travels to Austin for a job interview he hasn’t told his girlfriend about. He finds himself distracted both by news of the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, and by the youthful beauty of a woman he dubs Joy Luck (she’s immersed in the Amy Tan novel). The book’s final section is one of the most daring and hyper-realistic endings in recent contemporary fiction.

The Orange Eats Creeps
by Grace Krilanovich (Two Dollar Radio)
The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich (Two Dollar Radio) Drifting through gas station bathrooms and sweaty punk clubs throughout the Pacific Northwest, the “hobo vampire junkie sluts” in The Orange Eats Creeps suck their surroundings dry, vomit, and then catch a boxcar to their next surreal nightmare. Grace Krilanovich’s first book is a steamy cesspool of language that stews psychoneurosis and viscera into a horrific new organism—the sort of muck in which Burroughs, Bataille, and Kathy Acker loved to writhe.

Skippy Dies
by Paul Murray (Faber & Faber)
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (Faber & Faber) Paul Murray’s second novel explores the seamiest (and sappiest, and most sadistic and sardonic) tendencies of male adolescents, fermenting and fomenting at a Dublin boarding school. Commencing with the eponymous Skippy asphyxiating on the floor of a doughnut shop, the novel’s cultural pull quotes hail from sources scholarly, wizardly, pop, and profane. Skippy Dies is both nostalgic and prescient, and, moreover, a witty and bittersweet romp of a read.

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