We’ve all heard of prizes for experimental fiction, I’m sure, such as the new(ish) Goldsmith’s Prize won by Eimear McBride’s A girl is a half-formed thing in 2013, but have you heard of a prize for experimental non-fiction? I hadn’t until I read about Lifted Brow’s new prize recently.
The Lifted Brow is a Melbourne-based publisher, which publishes, “excellent writing and artwork”. They publish in print quarterly, in digital monthly, and online every other day. They have, they say, “eyes all over the world”. This last point is important because their The Lifted Brow Prize for Experimental Non-Fiction is not limited to Australia. They describe the prize as “looking to unearth new, audacious, authentic and/or inauthentic voices from both Australia and the world”. The prize is AUD1000, plus publication in The Lifted Brow’s redesigned/reformatted magazine (edition 25, due out in March 2015). Submissions, which closed at the end of January, had to be no more than 5,000 words, and there was a small entry fee. The judges are (somewhat) international too: Australian author-academic Rebecca Giggs, and US writers John D’Agata (essayist) and Mallory Ortberg (author of Texts from Jane Eyre).
Anyhow, here is the longlist which was announced earlier this month:
- Sophia O’Rourke’s “Flaming June – Still Life and the Anthroposcene”
- Scott Sandwich’s “Music Begins Where the Possibilities of Language Ends”
- Jocelyn Hungerford’s “Don Quixote, Which Was an Essay: A Plagiarism for Kathy Acker”
- Kelly Neal’s “The Ax and the Ex: Texts and Contexts”
- Harry Saddler’s “Thought Experiment”
- Ilan Oberon’s “A Holiday with Space Hippies”
- Mattie Sempert’s “Navel Gazing”
- Ben McLeay’s “The Lake”
- Oscar Schwartz’s “Humans Pretending to be Computers Pretending to be Human”
- Sian Campbell’s “Bleach”
- Caroline Crew’s “Slipcover”
- Rachel Hennessy “Kristeva’s Blood”
- Sam Cha’s “Why I Am Not A Pianist”
- Kimberley Starr’s “The Caged Bird Speaks”
I’ve listed these in their order, restraining myself from alphabetising to keep with the spirit of the prize. But, oh dear, I would like some sort of order to facilitate locating particular names any time I come looking at this page again. Just me, I suppose. (You can take the girl out of the library, but you can’t take … well, you know the rest!)
Anyhow, at first glance, I only recognise one of the authors listed here, Rachel Hennessy, whose novel, The heaven I swallowed, I’ve reviewed here. Of course, The Lifted Brow folk did say that were looking for writers they’ve never heard of before as well as ones they know, so some of these could be new. I wonder how many are international? Here’s what a superficial Google search revealed:
- Not found (or not with reasonable confidence): Sophia O’Rourke, Kelly Neal, Ben McLeay
- Found (with reasonable confidence): Scott Sandwich (Australian performance poet whose “real” name is Tom Hogan); Jocelyn Hungerford (Australian author/editor); Harry Saddler (Australian author born in Canberra); Ilan Oberon (Australian writer-artist based in Queensland): Mattie Sempert (Australian writer and acupuncturist based in Melbourne); Oscar Schwartz (Australian writer-poet based in Melbourne, currently researching whether computers can write poetry); Sian Campbell (Australian “freelance writer, student, wannabe bassist and lit nerd” based in Melbourne and Brisbane); Caroline Crew (American writer-poet); Rachel Hennessy (Australian writer, born in Canberra); Sam Cha (American writer-poet, based in Massachusetts); Kimberley Starr (Australian novelist and teacher)
So there you have it. Most are Australian, as I suppose you’d expect given the sponsoring magazine is Australian. And the gender spread looks pretty even (albeit exact numbers aren’t clear given that a couple of the names are gender-neutral).
I love the idea of experimental non-fiction. I’ve read (and reviewed here) some non-fiction that has played with voice and structure, or that has straddled, for want of a better description, the fiction-non-fiction divide, but not a lot, and probably not as “out there” as I suspect this prize is seeking. I look forward to seeing who wins it and just what the winning entry entails.
What do you understand by experimental non-fiction, and have you read much?