I haven't bought the Bridport Prize collection for a few years because the stories were - with the occasional exception - consistently dull. Given this copy recently, it seems that nothing has changed. The winning story doesn't work as reality or fantasy: somebody goes where she doesn't want to go, spends a year doing nothing, leaves and goes back for no obvious reason. The other stories are dreary and commonplace, with the authors adding some irrelevant sexual activity in a futile bid to enliven them.
The two flash fiction pieces - they're not stories - are pointless and the winning three poems are mundane to the point of banality. I only read one more poem and it was equally awful.
The fiction judge rightly bemoaned the lack of wit in the stories, which fail to do any of the things that a good story should: entertain, inform, amuse, touch, demonstrate another world, etc, etc. and this competition appears to have become - like the Booker or the Turner prizes - a genre in its own right. I read the Bristol Prize and Willesden Herald anthologies after this: not only were their stories much better, they were also more varied. With over thirteen thousand entries the Bridport Prize must have been sent better stuff than the examples in this book. So where are they?
Have they been filtered out by the system to produce this lifeless, worthless collection? While the administrators of the Bridport Prize claim it has set some authors off on the road to writing fame, their examples are all from the past. Who has won these prizes in the last ten years and gone on to mainstream success? It's unlikely that the writers of these stories will. There are much better collections of stories than this - try Yiyun Li, Panos Karnezis, David Benioff, Julie Orringer, Matt Bell or Tim Winton to see what better writers can do with a story.