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Writer Fiona Maazel has been selected to receive the annual Bard Fiction Prize for 2009. The prize, established in 2001 by Bard College to encourage and support promising young fiction writers, consists of a $30,000 cash award and appointment as writer in residence at the College for one semester. Maazel is receiving this year’s Bard Fiction Prize for her first novel, Last Last Chance (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008). She will be writer in residence at Bard College for the spring 2009 semester, where she will continue her writing, meet informally with students, and give a public reading.
Last Last Chance is the story of Lucy Clark, a drug addict with a highly dysfunctional family who navigates the American landscape in the wake of a lethal plague spread by terrorists. According to the New York Times, the novel is characterized by “funny, lacerating prose.” Publisher’s Weekly calls it “brimming with wit, ideas, and delightfully screwball humor.”
The Bard Fiction Prize committee writes, “Fiona Maazel’s first novel Last Last Chance is an imaginative tour de force, at once wise and whacked, elegiac and fantastical, hilarious and hair-raising. Sentence for sentence, scene for scene, Maazel is one of the most gifted prose stylists to emerge in recent years, her work reminding us at times of Kathy Acker or the late David Foster Wallace, but with a voice all her own. With unflinching eye and scalpel-sharp prose, she has created an America that teeters on the edge of apocalypse as its benighted denizens must chance their way through the complexities of an addiction-and-recovery culture, one threatened by a ‘superplague’ virus, one given to love lost and lost again. The world according to Lucy Clark—drug-addict, seeker, survivor—is populated with an astonishing array of characters, from her grandmother Agneth who believes in reincarnation, to her despairing boyfriend Stanley who is haunted by his dead wife. But it is Lucy, finally, we care about most. Lucy whose triumph it is, after all the self-and-otherwise-induced hells she has soldiered through, to ‘think clearly . . . at last,’ to be able to answer the towering question, ‘What happened to me?’ Fiona Maazel’s Last Last Chance is the work of a writer whose prodigious gifts as a stylist and blistering intelligence promise a limitless potential for future work.”
Maazel is the former managing editor of the Paris Review and the recipient of a 2005 Lannan Literary Fellowship. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, Village Voice, Boston Book Review, Mississippi Review, Tin House, Bomb, and Salon.com among other publications. She graduated from Williams College and received an M.F.A. from Bennington College.