I was recently very happy when I was given an advance review copy of the O Henry Prize Stories 2014 anthology. To be included in the collection is a great honor. The anthology and the award was first given in 1919 in honor of the great American short story writer, O Henry. Past winners of the award are among the elite of American and Canadian writers. To be elgible for consideration a short story must have first been published, in English, in an American or Canadian publication. The stories are read blind by a distinguished panel of judges. There are twenty stories in this years anthology.
Louise Erdrich (1954, Minnesota, USA) won this year for her story "Nero". Nero is a massive guard dog that patrols a shop and yard at night. The owners live in a house connected to the shop. He is a vicious brute. The story is told in the first person by a young girl who was sent to live with her grandparents for a few weeks when her mother had a baby. Her grandmother, a Polish immigrant, runs the shop and the family. Her uncle Jurgen also lives and works there. The girl is kind of excited to be without strict supervision and trys to get to know Nero. He has learned how to climb over a seven foot fence and is in lust for a neighbor's cocker spaniel. The girl begins to toss ginger snap cookies to
Nero, his first human connections.
The plot action of the story turns on Uncle Jurgen's romance with the book keeper for the business. Her father, a widower, and the twenty five year old woman live together. He starts a fight with any man who courts her. There is also a very interesting interlude centering on an exotic animal show. I will leave most of the plot untold.
The feel of the story is 1930s to 1950s Midwestern USA. The characters are a bit southern Gothic in style.
"Nero" was first published in The New Yorker in 2013.
You can learn a lot more about Louise Erdrich in her Paris Review interview.
Please share your experience with Louise Erdrich with us.