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New York Awards 2002

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Adam Haslett, Fiction

With his debut collection of short stories, You Are Not a Stranger Here, Adam Haslett arrives from out of nowhere sounding like a master. The opening tour de force, “Notes to My Biographer,” is a first-person riff from a bipolar narrator in full manic mode, showing all the flash and energy we demand of a brilliant new voice. Yup, you say—BNV. But what’s more surprising is the subtlety with which successive stories probe the psychological mysteries and relationships of an astonishingly diverse array of characters—gay and straight, children and senior citizens, Americans and Brits, institutionalized and free-range. How many lives has this guy led? Is he the love child of William Trevor and Eudora Welty? Every one of these stories feels like an original; each takes us to a surprising destination. A writer this good should be given the last word. Here are some of Haslett’s own, ripped out of context, which to me are evocative of the role of fiction in our lives: “Ted doesn’t see this familiar landscape as a present fact, but already as a memory, a scene he will one day recall. It’s strange and exciting to perceive things from such a distance. He glimpses how beautiful even this world can be if you aren’t actually in it.” -- JAY MCINERNEY


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