Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Triumph in Spite of it All

This morning all Bitchiness melts away from your blogger and she looks out at the sun-filled world and thinks: Here be justice.

Why? Because last night she had an email telling her that Tamar Yellin, a writer she considers brilliant and whom she once published in the short-story magazine Metropolitan, but whose subsequent novel was roundly declined by British publishers, has won with that very novel a major US-based international prize, the newly-inaugurated Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, 'the largest-ever Jewish literary prize given and one of the largest literary prizes in the nation.'

The independent US Toby Press should be congratulated for taking up Tamar's novel, The Genizah at the House of Shepher, after a British literary agent failed to sell it to British publishers. (And today the Bitch and her erstwhile co-editor Ailsa Cox are patting themselves on the back for having published two of her early stories).

Ailsa and I set up Metropolitan as a deliberate attempt to counteract the loss of platform for short stories due to the increasing commercialisation of fiction publishing. We are very proud of the writers we published, both known and unknown. One of these was Russell Hoban, to whom Susan Hill recently drew attention in her 'underrated writers' series of blog posts.
So why did we jump on Tamar's stories the moment they came out of the envelopes when we were editing Metropolitan from my back room? Because they are written in the most beautiful prose, precise and spare and telling. They are utterly serious and political yet entirely accessible and filled with a wry humour and humanity. We just LOVED them!! How could she not have got published in Britain?? And it's not that she ain't young and attractive (re Kate Kellaway's recent depressing Observer article) (just look at the picture on the Jewish Book Council site).

Ee, British publishers, eh?