Review

KJ Orr wins the 2016 BBC National Short Story Award

0 370

humanity-hallows-magazine-issue-4-web2

Humanity Hallows Issue 4 Out Now!
Pick up your copy on campus or read online.


“A near perfect example of how the short story works”

By Benjamin Cassidy

The current status of the short-story in the fiction market might best be explained by the fact that the most notable way to become recognised amongst the literary establishment is to win a big competition, or at least make the short-list. That is exactly what author K.J Orr has managed to do, by scooping first prize in the BBC National Short Story Award, which has just run for the tenth year. Her story, titled ‘Disappearances’, is set in Buenos Aires and concerns a retired plastic surgeon, his social-circle, and his feelings about a waitress, that develop as the story plays out.

kj-orr

Image courtesy of the BBC

Previous winners of the BBC Short Story Award include such prestigious names as Booker-winning novelist Hilary Mantel. Though Orr has been on a previous year’s short-list and has also had stories published in Sunday Times Magazine, The Irish Times, and The Dublin Review, the fact that she is a debut author, only releasing her first collection Light Box in February 2016, has created a fervour around her, drawing unprecedented levels of attention to her work. This poses the question on everyone’s minds: what is it about her story that did what the other entries didn’t?

Competition judge Kei Miller described Orr’s story as “a near perfect example of how the short story works.” Compliments such as this are not to be taken lightly, with such high profile competition, year in year out, with previous winners, including last year’s winner Jonathon Buckley, once again entering their work. Di Speirs, BBC Radio 4 presenter of the coverage of the competition and long-term champion of the short-story spoke of how “KJ Orr’s precision and clarity, her ability to expose a life in a line and to induce sympathy and disdain, linger long after reading the final paragraph.”

To be selected as top, out of 478 entries, the story must have had a memorable impact. So, how is Orr’s story a “near perfect example” of the short story form? One of the instantly notable things about ‘Disappearances’ is that the role of narrator (in this case her main character, who can loosely be labelled the story’s protagonist – though doesn’t wholly conform to the traditional description) is expertly considered. The choice of first person can sometimes be detrimental to the plot development and the emotional bond with the reader. This story, however, is every bit the character’s tale, and reads that way. The short paragraphs show his discomfort in revealing how he feels, creating a sense of stilted emotion. Orr creates a sense of the narrator only coming to terms with events as they happen. With such deft detail, it is clear to see how her “precision and clarity” can expose a “life in a line”. The observations about the waitress which the narrator regales are made realistic by the fact that he was once a plastic surgeon. Orr knows her character. More than this though, she knows what motivates him, and why he does what he does or says what he says at any one point. It is this kind of sensitivity delivered within her writing that elevates her own status from mere author to fellow master-surgeon. She uses her structural awareness and punchy-prose to carve out a poignant narrative, with her intellect and talent acting as scalpel, and other implements needed to perform a very frangible operation. She manages to do so with exacting and precise results.

KJ Orr’s debut collection Light Box, which includes the winning entry ‘Disappearances’, is available now from Daunt Books, priced £9.99.

 

 

 

About the author / 

Humanity Hallows

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More News Stories:

  • Album Review: ‘Self Made Man’ by Larkin Poe

    I first became aware of Larkin Poe when they supported Elvis Costello five-years-ago, during his Detour concert at Bridgewater Hall. But it is another elite singer-songwriter who sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell new album has more in common with – Bruce Springsteen. Blue Collar life is much in evidence in the lyrics. “I was a…

  • Supergrass to Play One-Off Virtual Reality Gig at Band On The Wall

    Despite the future of live music still in some form of uncertainty, Goose Island is leading the way by presenting a special broadcast of Supergrass, from Manchester’s Band On The Wall on Friday 21st August, 2020. Band On The Wall has been a long-standing pillar in Manchester’s music scene, making it the perfect setting for the…

  • Interview: Alt-Pop Artist Patrick on Making Music Through Hearing Vibrations, Championing Honesty, and Being Nominated for a LGBTQ Award

    Not many artists could overcome so many obstacles, so early on in their career. However, Manchester-based singer-songwriter Patrick is anything but an ordinary artist. Patrick has used his experiences to his advantage, from turning his hearing defect into a songwriting strength, to teaching himself to play the piano after being influenced by the likes of Adele and…