Monday musings on Australian literature: Here come the men!
Women really have dominated the literary awards season in Australia over the last two years. In 2012, the majority of the awards were won by Anna Funder with All that I am and Gillian Mears with Foal’s bread. Last year it was mostly Michelle de Kretser with Questions of travel and Carrie Tiffany with Mateship with birds. ML Stedman also won an award with her The light between oceans. As well as all this, last year we had, for the first time ever, an all female shortlist for the Miles Franklin Award! Where, you may have been wondering, were the men?
Well, in their writing rooms it seems, beavering away, because by late last year their books started appearing in droves … and nice to see it is. I love reading fiction by women, but I also love reading fiction by men. Let’s face it, I love reading good fiction! Anyhow, I, and others like The Australian’s literary editor Stephen Romei, expect some strong showings by our male writers in this year’s award lists. Books like:
- Richard Flanagan’s The narrow road to the deep north
- Tom Keneally’s Shame and captives
- Roger McDonald’s The following
- Alex Miller’s Coal Creek
- Christos Tsiolkas’ Barracuda
- Tim Winton’s Eyrie
Stephen Romei predicts that Winton and Flanagan will battle it out, though says there are other strong contenders from a bumper year for Australian fiction. I will be reading Tsiolkas and Winton with my reading group over the next few months, and received Flanagan for Christmas. I am greatly looking forward to getting my teeth into these writers, each of whom I’ve reviewed before on this blog, and each of whom I respect and enjoy.
None of these, though, are debut authors. Every one has won and/or been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin at least once, and most, more than once. Of course it takes a little time for a debut to make it into public consciousness. However, you may remember that last year’s Miles Franklin Award shortlist of five titles contained three – yes, three – debut novels (Floundering, by Romy Ash, The Beloved by Annah Faulkner, The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska). That was healthy, and augurs well for the future, but I wonder if we’ll see any debut novels by male authors in the shortlists this year? While I don’t report regularly on awards, I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for new authors appearing on the scene – or, indeed, for more established authors making their debut on the award lists.
Meanwhile, of course, I’ll continue to read Aussie women for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge, including Hannah Kent’s debut novel Burial rites which could very well give the men a run for their money this year if the buzz surrounding this book is right.
2014 looks to be another exciting year for Australian fiction. How do you – Aussies and otherwise – see your reading shaping up for the year?