There’s real darkness here, real heat: Ari Braverman wins the 2012 James Knudsen Prize in Fiction

Room 220 was delighted to learn that our frequent contributor Ari Braverman was recently selected as the winner of the 2012 James Knudsen Prize in Fiction, awarded by Bayou Magazine and the University of New Orleans. This year’s contest was judged by author Michael Knight, who said of Braverman’s winning story, “Even Though He’s Still Alive”:

“Even though He’s Still Alive” is one of those stories that does almost everything right while hardly seeming to tell a story at all. Driven by the unvarnished, loop-the-loop narration of a young woman who knows instinctively that there must be beauty in the world; she just can’t seem to find much of it in her own life. Her honesty, sexual and otherwise, is startling, all the more so because she directs her perception inward, often as not, without seeming to navel gaze. There’s real darkness here, real heat. This is not to mention the overarching conceit—Young Mick Jagger as a spirit guide. Sounds nutty but it works, and it works because the writer commits to it, ingrains the premise in her characterization and threads it through every section of the story, our narrator peppering an imaginary 27-year-old Mick with questions, researching his old girlfriends, wasting hours gazing at his image on the internet. Mick Jagger, the narrator tells us, wears “living like a mantle, loose and heavy, completely secure.” That’s what the narrator wants, too, and through the ordinary, seemingly disjointed events of her life she finds her way to a kind of happy ending, not perfect, not too tidy, but thoroughly earned and oh so rare in contemporary fiction.

Braverman’s work for Room 220 includes long-form interviews with Lawrence Powell, author of The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans, and Moira Crone, author of The Not Yet. Braveman is currently at work on a three-part series for Room 220 on the English literature program that takes place inside Orleans Parish Prison organized by Nik De Dominic.