The Center for Fiction in New York City has announced the winner of the 2011 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, formerly the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize. The ten-thousand-dollar award went to Colorado author Bonnie Nadzam for Lamb (Other Press).
The story of a middle-aged man who develops a friendship with, in the words of the author, a "poor and rather dull eleven-year-old girl" and embarks on a road trip with her, Nadzam's novel has drawn comparisons to Nabokov's classic, and controversial, story of intergenerational relations. But, "while kneejerk comparisons to Lolita are inevitable," says Drew Toal of the Daily Beast, which counted Lamb among its "Great Weekend Reads" earlier this fall, "David Lamb is playing a different game than Humbert Humbert.”
Nadzam's novel won out over debuts by finalists David Bezmozgis for The Free World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Sarah Braunstein for The Sweet Relief of Missing Children (Norton), Carolyn Cooke for Daughters of the Revolution (Knopf), Ida Hattemer-Higgins for The History of History (Knopf), Shards by Ismet Prcic (Black Cat), and Touch by Alexi Zentner (Norton). Each of the authors shortlisted received an award of one thousand dollars.
At the award ceremony on Tuesday, the Center for Fiction also awarded Scribner editor in chief Nan Graham the Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction.