Today’s news:

Cobble Hill author is about to go ‘fourth’ and collect big prize

The Brooklyn Paper

Cobble Hill author Arthur Phillips is poised to join the most elite strata of novelists — those with money.

And all he had to do was write a fourth novel that can withstand the scrutiny of literary hotshots like Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem.

Phillips is one of four writers — and the only Brooklyn resident — to reach the finals of a unique St. Francis College literary contest that will award $50,000 to the best fourth-time novelist.

Book world elites including Chabon, Lethem, as well as Heidi Julavitz and Ben Marcus, will judge Phillips’s “The Song Is You,” which was released in April. Set in Brooklyn, the book tells the story of a middle-aged man whose life turns upside down when he falls in love with a young singer in an Atlantic Avenue bar.

“It’s about associating music with memories of your life, and about it’s being addicted to your headphones and your music collection,” the writer and music-lover said.

Contest organizers told The Brooklyn Paper in March that they decided to honor fourth-time writers because the fourth book represents an important moment in an author’s career that is often overlooked by other contests. They also decided on the number as a way to limit the number of applicants, considering that there are far more first-time writers than fourth-time writers.

For Phillips, the fourth book — which coincided with his 40th birthday — served as a turning point.

“The fourth novel certainly represents a psychological change in a career,” he said. “With the fourth book, I feel like I’m treated as a writer who has been around for a while — and who, if he is going to keep sticking around, is going to have to do something else to keep getting people’s attention.”

Winning the prize might help keep him in the public eye, but it would definitely help “bankroll more writing,” said Phillips, who is working on his fifth novel, which, rumor has it, has a Shakespearean leitmotif.

But the Brooklyn writer is facing some pretty tough competition from California poet and novelist Jim Krusoe, whose satirical novel “Girl Factory” details a strange discovery in the basement of a frozen yogurt shop. Also on the short list are Aleksandar Hemon’s short story collection “Love and Obstacles,” which depicts the life of a young man in war-torn Sarajevo; and Nigerian-born writer Chris Abani’s “Song of the Night,” which tells the story of a 15-year-old searching for mines in Africa. Heavy stuff.

Win or lose, just making it to onto the list is cause to celebrate for Phillips because it means his book will be read by the panel of famed writers.

“Knowing you are being read by esteemed company is one of the most thrilling things that can happen to you as a writer — besides actually writing a book,” he said.

The winner of the prize will be announced at the Brooklyn Book Festival Gala on Sept. 12.

Pin It
Print this story Permalink

Reader Feedback

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Links