There was great excitement in both London and Dublin last week at the news that The China Factory by Mary Costello, published by The Stinging Fly, has been nominated for The Guardian First Book Award. The short story collection, published to critical acclaim in May of this year, is one of only six fiction titles amongst the longlist of eleven books that have been selected – alongside titles from major publishers such as Virago and Fourth Estate.
Learning of the book’s inclusion in this prestigious longlist Mary Costello said, “It’s wonderful to get this kind of news – and especially with a book of short stories. I did get a little thrill seeing the words ‘Irish short stories’ in there among the novels and non-fiction.”
The China Factory features twelve haunting stories, as Mary Costello precisely examines the perils and passions of everyday life and relationships and, with startling insight, casts a light on the darkest corners of the human heart. It has been widely reviewed and highly praised – here’s a sample:
“It is the accumulation of tiny pleasures . . . that makes The China Factory such a satisfying and accomplished debut.” Anne Enright, The Guardian
“Twelve perfect stories…Mary Costello has an acute ear for dialogue, but her real talent is for choosing what to leave unsaid . . . A collection of exquisite stories to intricately wrought, so unique and enthralling as to be utterly bewitching.” Lorraine Courtney, Sunday Independent
The Stinging Fly magazine was founded by publisher Declan Meade in 1997 to seek out, publish and promote the very best new Irish and international writing, with a particular interest in encouraging new writers, and in promoting the short story form. Declan says, ” We believe that there is a need for a magazine that, first and foremost, gives new and emerging writers an opportunity to get their work out into the world. We are particularly concerned to provide an outlet for short story writers: each issue features several short stories and we also devote entire issues to new fiction when the mood takes us.”
The first issue appeared in March 1998 and edited by founding editors Aoife Kavanagh and Declan Meade, it consisted of 28 A4 pages with five short stories and about twenty poems. The Stinging Fly Press imprint was launched in May 2005 with the publication of , Watermark by Sean O’Reilly. The imprint is dedicated to publishing the very best new Irish literary fiction, and like the magazine, it is particularly interested in promoting the short story. In 2007 The Stinging Fly Press published the Rooney Prize-winning short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms by Kevin Barry, and in 2009, Life in The Universe by Michael J. Farrell was their next single author collection.
Speaking about The China Factory’s nomination, Declan Meade said, “This can only help to find new readers for Mary’s fantastic collection of stories. We are very proud to be her first publisher.”
The Guardian first book award is an annual award – established in 1999 and now in its 14th year – is open to all first-time authors writing in English, or translated into English, across all genres, and aims to recognise and reward the finest new writing talent. The winner will be at announced at a ceremony later this year and will receive a £10,000 prize plus an advertising package in the Guardian and the Observer.
Lisa Allardice, chair of the judging panel and editor of the Guardian Review, said: “It has been a strong year for first books, so for the first time we have 11 titles on the Guardian First Book Award longlist. We have put together a lively and wide-ranging list to reflect the diversity of first books published this year.”
Previous winners of the Guardian First Book Award include Zadie Smith and Jonathan Safran Foer. Last year’s winner was Siddhartha Mukherjee for his book, The Emperor of All Maladies.
Mary Costello is originally from East Galway and now lives in Dublin. Her stories have been anthologised and published in New Irish Writing and in The Stinging Fly. Mary told writing.ie all about The China Factory and how the collection evolved – you can read the full article here.
(c) Vanessa O’Loughlin September 2012
About The China Factory
An elderly schoolteacher recalls the single act of youthful passion that changed her life forever; a young gardener has an unsettling encounter with a suburban housewife; a wife who miscalculated the guarantees of marriage embarks upon an online affair. And in the title story a teenage girl strikes up an unlikely friendship with a lonely bachelor.
Love, loss, betrayal. Grief, guilt, longing. The act of grace or forgiveness that can suddenly transform and redeem lives. In these twelve haunting stories Mary Costello carefully examines the passions and perils of everyday life and relationships and, with startling insight, casts a light on the darkest corners of the human heart.
What emerges is a compassionate exploration of how ordinary men and women endure the trials and complexities of marriage, memory, adultery, death, and the ripples of disquiet that lie just beneath the surface. With a calm intensity and an undertow of sadness, she reveals the secret fears and yearnings of her characters, and those isolated moments when a few words or a small deed can change everything, with stark and sometimes brutal consequences.
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