University of Pittsburgh Press

Drue Heinz Literature Prize

Ed Ochester

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

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Drue Heinz Literature Prize

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Newsworld

Todd James Pierce

The stories explore America’s obsession with news and entertainment culture. In the title story, a theme park has attractions where visitors relive actual news events such as “OJ’s Bronco: The Ride”, and “Seige at Waco”.

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The Old Priest

by Anthony Wallace

The Old Priest is a book of transformations. From the seamy underbelly of casino life and its get-rich-quick schemes, to the title character morphing into a goat before his protégé’s eyes, to a family upended by a miniature dinosaur in their back yard, Anthony Wallace writes about life-changing events and their consequences. The characters, cut from the well-worn cloth of hardscrabble lives, confront circumstances and memories that will alter their personal trajectories. Through wry and ironic prose, and what feels like firsthand experience, Wallace details a comic and often deluded search for self-gratification in the most unlikely locations—such as the Emerald City Bar, where a waitress dressed as an x-rated Dorothy offers clientele more than just a highball; or the Bastille Casino, where dealers in French Revolutionary garb fleece patrons, among them a Holocaust survivor. We soon learn that the victims or anyone else in these tales are not above reproach; they too have personal demons. Far from redemptive, the stories in The Old Priest instead offer hard lessons that are both revealing and knowing.

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Out Loud

Anthony Varallo

Varallo's short story collection gives voice to the disconnections of family and relationships, and the silent emotions that often speak louder than words. It tells of longings for meaningful expression and the complexities and escapism of human interactions that keep us from these truths.

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The Physics of Imaginary Objects

Tina May Hall

This book offers a very different kind of short fiction, blending story with verse to evoke fantasy, allegory, metaphor, love, body, mind, and nearly every sensory perception.

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The Source of Life and Other Stories

Beth Bosworth

Post-divorce dating is one more cause for celebration (or a quick call in to the police) in Beth Bosworth’s revelatory new book, The Source of Life and Other Stories. The spine of this collection is a series of linked stories about Ruth Stein, a Brooklyn author whose first book has exposed her father’s abuses; while the voice here, speaking across a lifetime, ranges from bittersweet to humorous to lethal. In other stories Bosworth’s narrators—a mother left to care for her son’s suicidal dog, an editor haunted by a dog-eared manuscript—seem to grab hold of the reins and run off with their fates. Meanwhile Bosworth explores the extended family, the bonds of friendship, an apocalyptic Vermont, the rank yet redeemable Gowanus Canal; also rites of passage, race relations, divorce, middle-aged romance, dementia, funerals, alcoholism, and the Jewish religion. Reality is just another stumbling block for Bosworth’s characters, who might help themselves but don’t always choose to. There are leaps of faith here, nonetheless, as the collection dispenses a kind of narrative psychotropic for survival and redemption, with a chaser of humor mixed in.

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Speed-Walk and Other Stories

by Suzanne Greenberg

The characters in Speed-Walk and Other Stories often find themselves dislocated, living in places that do not resemble or feel like home. Their lives have somehow been turned on their axes, and often they cannot comprehend why. The stories in this stunning debut collection are united by their protagonists' common quest to make sense of the world, to bring it into focus, to set it right, to adapt. In selecting Suzanne Greenberg's fiction for the 2003 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Rick Moody wrote, “A charge sometimes leveled against contemporary fiction these days is that it has abrogated its responsibility to depict civilization as it actually exists. Speed-Walk replies forcefully to this aesthetic error by locating its protagonists in completely recognizable environments. . . . [They] are ever engaged by the routines of American life: walking the dog, eating at the sushi bar, doing the laundry.” Tightly written yet realistically spare, these stories provide a blueprint for survival when the unexpected is thrust into an ordinary life.

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The Spirit Bird

Stories

by Kent Nelson

Winner of the 2014 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Selected by David Guterson. The flight path of The Spirit Bird traces many landscapes and different transitory lives. A young man scratches out a living from the desert; a woman follows a rarely seen bird in the far reaches of Alaska; a poor single mother sorts out her life in a fancy mountain town. Other protagonists yearn to cross a racial divide, keep developers from a local island, explore their sexuality, and mourn a lost loved one. The characters in this collection are compelled to seek beyond their own horizons, and as the stories unfold, the search becomes the expression of their desires. The elusive spirit bird is a metaphor for what we’ve lost, for what we hope for, and what we don’t know about ourselves.

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This Angel on My Chest

by Leslie Pietrzyk

This Angel on My Chest is a collection of unconventionally linked stories, each about a different young woman whose husband dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Ranging from traditional stories to lists, a quiz, a YouTube link, and even a lecture about creative writing, the stories grasp to put into words the ways in which we all cope with unspeakable loss. Based on the author’s own experience of losing her husband at age thirty-seven, this book explores the resulting grief, fury, and bewilderment, mirroring the obsessive nature of grieving. The stories examine the universal issues we face at a time of loss, as well as the specific concerns of a young widow: support groups, in-laws, insurance money, dating, and remarriage. This Angel on My Chest ultimately asks, how is it possible to move forward with life while “till death do you part” rings in your ears—and, how is it possible not to?

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Triple Time

Anne Sanow

A compelling collection of short stories set in Saudi Arabia linked by various characters over a 50-year span, from the end of WWII to the mid-1990s. They're native Saudis and expatriates going about their lives and loves and losses and discovering who they are and where they belong.

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The Truly Needy and Other Stories

by Lucy Honig

Winner of the 1999 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. These nine stories are teeming with people on the margins, where destitute New Yorkers and determined immigrants are as much at the mercy of social services, media attention, opportunistic politicians, and "quality-of-life" campaigns as they are prey to grinding poverty, dangerous streets, and their own haunting memories. Delving into Lucy Honig's fiction, one is willingly drawn into an intimacy with these resilient, but flawed characters—among them, a woman who cleans a beauty salon, a high school kid who’s lost a parent, a runaway Cambodian bride, an actress, and a homeless woman. Crossing paths, these difficult characters often misunderstand and sometimes demean each other, yet they also redeem and rescue one other in odd and unexpected ways. In The Truly Needy, Lucy Honig has created a heartbreaking, imaginative world that is the American urban landscape.

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