Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, September 21, 2012

"Sunshine" by Lynn Freed A 2011 Pen/ O. Henry Prize Story

"Sunshine" by Lynn Freed (2011)

One of the premier annual short story anthologies in the world is the Pen/O Henry Prize Stores collection.   These collections first began in 1919 and is open to short stories in American and Canadian magazines.    Inclusion in the collection is a great honor and some of the greatest writers of the world have been published in these collections.   I have decided to read through all and post on some of the best of the stories in the 2011 collection and then proceed to the 2012 collection.  The 2005 and 2006 collections are also available as E books and perhaps I will read through them also.    I only began to read contemporary short stories about two years ago so most of these writers, even though many are in fact very well known, will be new to me writers.  Very few of the stories can be read online but a lot of the writers do have web pages so maybe you can sample their work a bit.

I plan just for fun to keep track of my personal top three 2011 O. Henry Prize Stories.   Given that I have only read two so far here they are:

1.  "Sunshine" by Lynn Freed-way the best so far
2.  "Pole, Pole" by Susan Minot

I really loved "Sunshine" by Lynn Freed (South Africa).   It is a story about a wealthy man whose servants bring him in a wild girl they found in the jungle,  maybe ten.      He has the girl cleaned up, keeps her in a cage for a while so she can become more tame and then he rapes her.  He has done this many times before.   He lives in a terribly poor place where people sometimes abandon their children, especially their daughters.    The servants tell the man that the girl acts like she was raised by baboons which sets the story in either India or Africa, we are not told where it takes place.  The man also preys on the children of the village, knowing his wealth will keep him in a steady supply of young girls.   The story is told in a very flat almost deadpan way and it really is flat out brilliant.   This story is not online anywhere as far as I know but there are several other stories that can be linked to from Freed's web page.

Official Author Biography

Bio & Education

LYNN FREED was born and grew up in Durban, South Africa. She came to New York as a graduate student, receiving her M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from Columbia University.
After moving to San Francisco, she wrote her first novel, HEART CHANGE (republished as FRIENDS OF THE FAMILY). Since then, she has published five more novels: HOME GROUNDTHE BUNGALOWTHE MIRRORHOUSE OFWOMEN and THE SERVANTS’ QUARTERS. In 2004, her first collection of short stories, THE CURSE OF THEAPPROPRIATE MAN, was published, and, in 2005, her first collection of essays, READINGWRITING & LEAVINGHOMELIFE ON THE PAGE.
Ms. Freed’s short fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, Southwest Review, the Michigan Quarterly Review, The Santa Monica Review, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsday, Mirabella, Elle, House Beautiful, House & Garden, and Vogue, among others. Her work is widely translated, and is included in a number of anthologies.
In 2011 Ms. Freed won a PEN/O. Henry Award for the short story, “Sunshine”, which is included in the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2011. Prior to that, she had stories listed both in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES and THE PEN/O.HENRY PRIZE SHORT STORY collections. She has won the Bay Area Book Reviewers’ Award for Fiction (HOMEGROUND), and has subsequently had four books nominated for the same award. Most of her books have appeared on The New York Times “Notable Books of the Year” list as well as on its “New & Noteworthy Paperback” list, as they have on the lists of The Washington Post and other journals.
In 2002, Ms. Freed was awarded the inaugural Katherine Anne Porter Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and The Guggenheim Foundation and been awarded residency fellowships supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, The Camargo Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Bogliasco Foundation, Civitella Ranieri, the Corporation of Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony, among others.
Ms. Freed is Professor of English at the University of California in Davis.

You can learn more about her work and read some of her stories on her webpage.   

Mel u


Anonymous said...

Where was punishment for the community at large, all of whom were criminal accessories to child molestation, especially Grace, who was only too eager to cage girls, enslave them in the kitchen, and groom the poor little creatures for Julian, all because she preferred another two-week reprieve from Julian at the expense of sexual abuse of another minor? There is nothing in this universe that can excuse abuse, however indirect, of the most precious souls among us. I would've preferred an ending that included justice at least for Grace, Dr. McKenzie, and Dunlop, too. The author almost achieved poetic justice when she wrote, ". . . and they ran, one for a kitchen knife, another to lock the doors and windows of the house." I wanted the girl to go after everyone responsible. But the author stopped short, employing a cheap shot at men by singling out only Julian for punishment and--this is crucial--denying justice and closure due all the girls who had been victims previously. Characters should never get off without some form of redemption. In spite of an ending that let me down, Sunshine is a very good story.

Mel u said...

To anoymous poster. Thanks very much for this comment