LAFAYETTE, CA, May 12, 2020—Daniel Mason, award-winning author of The Winter Soldier (Little, Brown) and other powerful, influential works of fiction, has been named 2020 Joyce Carol Oates Prize Recipient by the Simpson Literary Project. The Prize annually honors a midcareer author of fiction who has earned a distinguished reputation and the widespread approbation and gratitude of readers.
“Daniel Mason is a transporting writer of prodigious imagination and power. He writes with such immense confidence that readers are invited to take the leap— into the past as well as into themselves. In fact, he challenges us to re-think the very concept of historical fiction. Because in his breathtakingly beautiful prose, he simultaneously compels us to reimagine and re-engage our present world. “Timeless” is a descriptor often casually invoked by reviewers, though it is most deserving in the case of Daniel Mason’s enduring work. He elegantly represents the Prize’s aspirations, because he is an emerged writer whose prospective, continual emergence promises to be limitless.” —Joseph Di Prisco, Chair, Simpson Literary Project
“It is an enormous pleasure and privilege to work with Daniel Mason, a writer I admired long before I ever had the chance to communicate with him directly. His writing is at once lush and precise, his evocation of his settings so immersive that the reader feels completely transported to another place and time, whether it be a ravaged WWI field hospital in the Carpathian Mountains, a jungle in nineteenth-century Burma, or an asylum in mid- twentieth-century Rio de Janeiro. Above all, what Daniel Mason does so brilliantly is depict the intimate truths of the human heart and condition through characters who seem to live and breathe and love and suffe —who strive and seek, doubt themselves, fail, and strive again—no less urgently or convincingly than we his readers do. During this uncertain time, many of us have turned to literature for comfort, escape, inspiration, and understanding. For me, it is the books and authors who are the real thing who now truly hold up and effectively bring this much needed relief and perspective. Daniel Mason is unquestionably one of these, and I feel certain that his work will hold up and be read years and decades from now. He could not be more deserving of the Joyce Carol Oates Prize, and I cannot wait to read what he does next.” —Asya Muchnick, Vice President and Executive Editor, Little, Brown and Company
“The Winter Soldier is a deeply moving, imaginatively audacious achievement: the evoking of a bygone world with such precision, such richness of detail and empathy, the reader is reminded of those scenes in Tolstoy’s War and Peace that bring us into the very narrative, as if we were, not readers peering back into an historic past, but contemporaries of that past caught up in its heartrending drama. Those with a particular interest in the history of medical science will be fascinated by Daniel Mason’s young doctor’s medical adventures in the most primitive of settings—the battlefield.” —Joyce Carol Oates
“I am deeply honored to receive the 2020 Joyce Carol Oates Prize. In a world that has changed so much over the past few months, it is bracing to see the Simpson Literacy Project continuing its mission to promote creative writing. My writing has increasingly turned towards this current time, and I will use the prize to continue new work set here in California. The prize is also a return to a home of sorts, as it was in Berkeley (its cafes, its University libraries) that many of the stories of A Registry of My Passage upon the Earth took form. Though the pandemic will likely change the structure of a residency, I look forward to meeting members of the Berkeley English Department and the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, whether virtually or (I hope) in person.” —Daniel Mason
Click here for the full press release.
On May 5th, 2020 Daniel’s newest collection of short stories A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth published with Little, Brown and Company.
On a fateful flight, a balloonist makes a discovery that changes her life forever. A telegraph operator finds an unexpected companion in the middle of the Amazon. A doctor is beset by seizures, in which he is possessed by a second, perhaps better, version of himself. And in Regency London, a bare-knuckle fighter prepares to face his most fearsome opponent, while a young mother seeks a miraculous cure for her ailing son.
At times funny and irreverent, always moving and deeply urgent, these stories — among them a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart Prize winner — cap a fifteen-year project. From the Nile’s depths to the highest reaches of the atmosphere, from volcano-racked islands to an asylum on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, these are tales of ecstasy, epiphany, and what the New York Times Magazine called the “struggle for survival . . . hand to hand, word to word,” by “one of the finest prose stylists in American fiction.”
Be sure to pick up a copy for yourself here.
Buzz for A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth
To read about Daniel’s experience writing some of the stories for this collection, check out his interview with The Atlantic here.
“What I’ve found most remarkable about Mason’s fiction is the quality of his revelations, his ability to unveil temperaments, habits, natures. His stories are mysteries, albeit not in the genre sense… In all of the stories, you can see Mason figuring out new strategies to get closer to the people he is writing about. Each is a portrait, each a deep dive into an individual’s nature, each rooted in history.”―Wyatt Mason, New York Times Magazine
“Daniel Mason is a masterful storyteller, and these stories—the attention to history and science and all that is unknown—are nothing short of brilliant. With exquisite, mesmerizing language, he transports us to places far beyond the realm of our realities and then lands us in ways wholly intimate and moving. A Registry Of My Passage Upon the Earth is a marvel and a journey not to be missed.”―Jill McCorkle, New York Times bestselling author of Life After Life
“An enchanting cabinet of curiosities and wonders… Mason is one of our best historical novelists, creating panoramas of rich detail, propulsive plot, and artful character development… In his first story collection, he shows how quickly and completely he can immerse readers in a foreign place and time… Nine tales of human endurance, accomplishment, and epiphany told with style and brio.”―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Mason’s melodious, introspective collection locates startling depth in a series of engrossing character studies… The title story is a standout, rendered in the form of a madman’s ravings, in which a gifted writer is compelled to obsessively catalogue every poignant piece of human existence. Mason is a brilliant wordsmith… and respectful of his readers by not giving away too much. Each story is informed and deepened by scientific inquisitiveness, and rewards readers with understated philosophical insight. This showcases Mason’s wide range and mastery of lyrical precision.”―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Transporting… Pinpoint physical details and precisely articulated emotions collide with the mystical, while scientific quests drive characters to extremes… With touches of Borges and Calvino, Mason’s fabulist stories are works of tenderness and awe for human curiosity, passion, mad valor, and profound resiliency.”―Donna Seaman, Booklist
“A series of precisely crafted, often historically informed, stories about mystery and the unexpected turns of diverse lives.”―Harvard Magazine
About the Author
Daniel Mason is a physician and the author of the novels The Piano Tuner, A Far Country, and The Winter Soldier. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages and adapted for opera and theater. A recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, he is currently a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, where he teaches courses in the humanities and medicine. You can keep up with all the latest from Daniel on Twitter and Instagram.
At the end of May 2020, Daniel will donate all author proceeds from A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth sold by independents to help protect a threatened site near Chapada dos Veadeiros in Brazil and start a research site studying biodiversity in the area.