… and now we have a winner! Those of you who have been following the tournament will know that the two books facing off in the Finale were Helen Garner‘s The children’s Bach and Joan London‘s Gilgamesh. I would not have guessed this at the beginning (and neither, they say, did the organisers). Not because these aren’t great books – I’ve read them both – but because they are not the ones on the top of people’s tongues (like, say, My brilliant career) or the ones with critical weight behind them (like, say, The man who loved children or The fortunes of Richard Mahony). That said, I’m surprised but not sorry, because it’s no bad thing to expose other works to wider attention. The question is, will they get it?
Anyhow, onto the finale. It was judged a little differently: there was a panel of 5, with each giving a brief reason for his/her vote. You can read their reasons on the Meanjin site, because here I’m simply going to announce that the winner. And it is, drum roll please, with 3 votes to 2, Zombie Round returnee, Helen Garner’s The children’s Bach. I’m happy – after all it’s one of the few from the original list that I’ve reviewed on this this blog. It was a reread too, which tells you something: Garner is a great writer.
The real question, though, is what happens next? Has the Tournament achieved anything for Australian literature, and Australian women’s writing in particular? Is it worth doing again next year? Well, I’m not sure. Leaving off the question concerning the merits of judging books, and looking at it from a consciousness-raising point of view, which were, I believe, its main goals, did Meanjin‘s Tournament achieve what it set out to. I fear it didn’t … and that I suspect is due less to the tournament itself than to lack of promotion of it. I didn’t see or hear much buzz about it around the traps – in neither the formal print and electronic media nor in less formal places like blogs.
Appropriately, the following quote from The children’s Bach has some application here:
Like many women of her age whose opinions, when they were freshly thought and expressed, had never received the attention they deserved, Mrs Fox had slid away into a habit of monologue, a stream of mild words which concealed the bulk of thought and knowledge as babbling water hides submerged boulders.
I fear that, like Mrs Fox’s wisdom, the submerged boulders of good Australian literature have stayed submerged … what must (can) we do to expose them?