2020 Algren Award finalist: ‘Winner Winner’ by Becky Mandelbaum

2020 Algren Award finalist: ‘Winner Winner’ by Becky Mandelbaum
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As I read, I recalled how, once, in a workshop in college, Wilson accused my prose of being verb-based. Your characters are constantly dashing around, moving from room to room, eating and sleeping and whimpering and gazing dramatically into one another’s eyes. (The instructor, who once invited me to accompany him on an overnight trip to Omaha, had defended my writing, calling Wilson’s observation curious but ultimately incorrect.) Now, reading Wilson’s book, I noted that the prose was noun-based. Delia and Warren were constantly eating food—French toast with raspberries and whipped cream, hardboiled eggs sprinkled with salt, warm baguettes slathered in cinnamon butter and honey. They stayed in hotels with heavy comforters, basil-scented shampoo, and air conditioners that dripped water and hummed like sleeping monsters. Delia wore sheer blouses, bangles, and espadrilles. In her hair was a silver beetle clip with turquoise stones for eyes. I realized all of these nouns were my nouns—my favorite foods, the things I loved about hotels. I wore sheer blouses and espadrilles, and had inherited my grandmother’s turquoise barrette. Not once had I considered that Wilson took note of these details. What were his details, I wondered? His nouns? His adjectives? I had never written about him in such a way, and this discrepancy made me very sad. I realized that if I ever wrote a story about him, the reader probably wouldn’t even know what he looked like.

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