The late great Eudora Welty referred to Elizabeth Spencer's short stories as having a "certain prankish gaiety" about them. Now Spencer, that long-legged, Mississippi-born beauty who lives in Chapel Hill and is 92, has won the coveted $30,000 Rea Award for the Short Story.
Jurors for the award are Mississippi-born Richard Ford ("The Sportswriter," "Independence Day"), Alabama-born Tom Franklin ("Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter") and Hillsborough's Lee Smith ("Fair and Tender Ladies," "Guests on Earth").
In their citation, the jurors said Spencer's stories "...revel in their delicious verbal (and moral) distinctions, take liberties and never fail to pay off."
"It is not at all that Ms. Spencer has lasted as a writer," they wrote, "but rather that she has thrived at the height of her powers to a degree that is unparalleled in modern letters."
Spencer is the author of eight short story collections and nine novels. "Starting Over" is her most recent collection. She is also the author of the 1960 novel, "The Light in the Piazza," made into a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie in 1962 starring Olivia de Havilland, Yvette Mimieux and George Hamilton.
Previous winners of the Rea Award include John Updike, James Salter, Joyce Carol Oates, Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, as well as Ford and Welty.
Here is Spencer being interviewed in January on D.G. Martin's "Book Watch."
Here is the Paris Review interview with Spencer from 1989.