Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2011.
Padgett Powell writes: ‘Their conversation we may find it difficult to grasp much like they themselves. Coming to conclusions that don’t conclude. To questions that have no answers. To positions that may not be finally so aimless. They disagree to agree. They are smart, not smart; fools, not fools.’ Poignant, hilarious, opaque, diamond-clear, this strange little gem is sure to delight the thousands of devotees found by Powell’s The Interrogative Mood. ‘I’d like to see some flying dogs. Are there flying dogs? Not that I know of. Seeing some would improve my mood tremendously, though. I suspect it would. Mine too. Cheer us right up, flying dogs. Raining cats and dogs. Like to see cats bouncing off cars. Why’d they call combat air battles “dogfights”? They wanted to see flying dogs too.’
An intense psychological drama that echoes sophisticated entertainments like Gorky Park and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Nick Platt is a British lawyer working in Moscow in the early 2000s—a place where the cascade of oil money, the tightening grip of the government, the jostling of the oligarchs, and the loosening of Soviet social mores have led to a culture where corruption, decadence, violence, and betrayal define everyday life. Nick doesn’t ask too many questions about the shady deals he works on—he’s too busy enjoying the exotic, surreally sinful nightlife Moscow has to offer.
One day in the subway, he rescues two willowy sisters, Masha and Katya, from a would-be purse snatcher. Soon Nick, the seductive Masha, and long-limbed Katya are cruising the seamy glamour spots of the city. Nick begins to feel something for Masha…[more]
Tom and Mark Casey are a father and son on a collision course, two men who have always struggled to be at ease with each other. Tom is a farmer in the Irish midlands, the descendant of men who have farmed the same land for generations. Mark, his only son, is a doctoral student in Dublin, writing his dissertation on the nineteenth-century novelist Maria Edgeworth, who spent her life on her family’s estate, not far from the Casey farm. To his father, who needs help baling the hay and ploughing the fields, Mark’s academic pursuit is not man’s work at all, the occupation of a schoolboy. Mark’s mother negotiates a fragile peace.
Then, at a party in Dublin, Mark meets Joanne Lynch, a lawyer in training whom he finds irresistible. She also happens to be the daughter of a man who once spectacularly wronged Mark’s father, and whose betrayal Tom has remembered every single day for twenty years. …[more]
At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table midway through the meal, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave. An eclectic group of neighbors and friends slowly gathers around the house, and Miles’s story is told from the points of view of four of them: Anna, a woman in her forties; Mark, a man in his sixties; May, a woman in her eighties; and a ten-year-old named Brooke. The thing is, none of these people knows Miles more than slightly. How much is it possible for us to know about a stranger? And what are the consequences of even the most casual, fleeting moments we share every day with one another?
Brilliantly audacious, disarmingly playful, and full of Smith’s trademark wit and puns, There but for the is a deft exploration of the human need for separation—from our pasts and from one another—and the redemptive possibilities for connection. It is a tour de force by one of our finest writers.