Benjamin DeMott, chairman of the jury, served as juror for the 1987 Rea Award. An author and critic, he is Professor of Literature at Amherst College. He has been a columnist or contributing editor for The Atlantic, Harper’s, Saturday Review and The American Scholar. He is the author of two novels and four collections of essays. Benjamin DeMott has served on the Pulitzer and National Book Award juries.
Shannon Ravanel, attracted to the short story since she tried to write them in college, converted her love for the medium into a 15 year involvement with Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Short Stories. She worked originally for six years with its former editor, Martha Foley, and then, for the last nine years, has held the key editorial position. In order to cull the best 120 stories for the volume, she reads some 1500 short stories from American and Canadian periodicals.
Ravanel, also editor of the Bright Leaf Short Fiction Series at Algonquin Books Inc. in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has taught undergraduate courses in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis as a visiting professor of fiction in the English Department.
Stanley Elkin was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Chicago. An offbeat fiction writer, Elkin had a gift for black comedy, fantastic imagery, bizarre situations, and a kind of lyrical bleakness, all expressed in ornately wrought language. He was essentially a moralist, and his works reveal a deep underlying seriousness. During his career, Elkin wrote 17 books: ten novels, two volumes of novellas, one book of short stories, one collection of essays, and three published scripts. His novels include Boswell: A Modern Comedy (1964), The Franchiser (1976), George Mills (1982), The Magic Kingdom (1985), and Mrs. Ted Bliss (1995). His short stories, notably Criers and Kibitzers, Kibitzers and Criers (1966), and novellas, such as Searches and Seizures (1973), won critical acclaim. Also an essayist (e.g., the 1992 collection Pieces of Soup), Elkin taught writing (1960–95) at Washington Univ. in St. Louis. In a review of George Mills, Ralph B. Sipper wrote, "Elkin’s trademark is to tightrope his way from comedy to tragedy with hardly a slip." Elkin’s novel George Mills won the 1982 National Book Award, and his last novel, Mrs. Ted Bliss, won the 1995 National Book Critics Circle Award. However, although he enjoyed high critical praise, his books have never enjoyed popular success.
Elkin died May 31, 1995 of a heart attack. His manuscripts and correspondence are archived at the Washington University in St. Louis library.