Shelf Life: A literary fiction award that doesn’t expire


For a number of years, publishing has been dominated by commercial fiction. Literary fiction novels and short story collections by small presses or independent authors have little chance of being noticed by reviewers or placed on bookstore shelves.  Even the literary fiction written by relatively well-known writers published by big houses has been pushed to the side by pseudo-literary fiction  — written and reviewed by those who don’t  know the difference between thought and sentimentality, poetry and the use of adjectives — such that the meaning of “literary” is lost. With the way the publishing system is currently organized, books aren’t given much time in front of judges and audiences. Those that don’t make it immediately are tossed in the remaindered bin. A deep pity, as literary fiction is slow-growing and takes time to find its audience. No one in the literary fiction community denies this, and yet there are no awards for the best five-year-old novel; no reviewers interested in what came out last year. To help remedy this situation, Dactyl Foundation has created a review dedicated solely to literary fiction and is offering a $1000 award to eligible authors.

In order for a work to be considered for the award, a published literary fiction author must write a review of the work and submit it to Dactyl Review. (This is a new requirement, beginning in 2011.) If the author wishes to have his/her work considered for the award, he/she should send a request to Tori Alexander info (at) dactyl (dot) org.  All eligible works must be published in some form, whether through a traditional publishing house, self-published, print-on-demand, or e-book. The work must be available for purchase through a bookstore, either as new or as used. No single short stories are eligible for consideration. Short stories must appear in a collection.

By “literary” we mean that the author pays attention to, for example, the sounds, double meanings, etymologies, allusiveness, or rhythms of language. Literary novels are prose poetry, at the sentence level and also at a larger level where themes, characters and events should also relate poetically. The subject of the work is engaged with something that might be called weighty, questioning, for example, how we think, how we make meaning, why things happen the way they do, how we decide what’s right or wrong, or musing over what might have been.

2010 Award Recipient: Shadowplay by Norman Lock