Alistair McLeod and Amy Hempel have been selected to receive the twenty-second annual PEN/Malamud Award, sponsored by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Given for a body of work that "demonstrates excellence in the art of short fiction," the five-thousand-dollar prize is split between a more established writer and "one at the beginning of a literary career."
While McLeod has undoubtedly established himself—the sixty-nine-year-old Canadian is the author of several acclaimed story collections, including Island: The Complete Stories (Norton, 2001), and the winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, among other prizes—the description of Hempel as an author at the beginning of her career is, perhaps, arguable. Her first story collection, Reasons to Live, was published by Knopf twenty-four years ago. Previous early-career PEN/Malamud Award winners include Nathan Englander, Nell Freudenberger, and Adam Haslett, each of whom had published only one book when they won.
Still, Hempel's distinctive stories, which are collected in five books, including The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel (Scribner, 2006), certainly warrant the honor. "It is thrilling to receive an award named for Bernard Malamud," Hempel was quoted as saying in a press release, "whose stories are as relevant now as they were when he wrote them, tough and beautiful and uncompromising but not didactic."