Stella Prize 2016 Winner Announced
Just a short post for those of you who read my Stella Prize longlist and shortlist posts and haven’t heard the news – which would primarily be you readers from lands other than mine! The winner was not a surprise, as you may know if you read my response to BookerTalk’s question on my shortlist post. It’s Charlotte Wood’s The natural way of things.
Wood’s book has been garnering such positive reviews, I knew I should have read it before the announcement, but instead I read three others (Tegan Bennett Daylight’s Six bedrooms, Elizabeth Harrower’s A few days in the country and other stories, and Fiona Wright’s Small acts of disappearance.) I will definitely be reading Wood soon, since it is up for other awards this year too.
Charlotte Wood’s acceptance speech is available online at the Stella Prize site. Here are a couple of excerpts:
I know that the measure of a book’s quality, and the measure of one’s worth as an artist, can never be decided by awards. Nor can it be defined by sales, nor even the response of our beloved readers. If there is a measure – and I’m not sure there is – it can only be time.
Partly true. I discovered recently that Elizabeth Harrower missed out on the Miles Franklin Award for her wonderful The watch tower (my review) in 1966 to Peter Mathers’ pretty much forgotten Trap. (Of course, someone could revive it too as Text Publishing has Harrower’s books making me eat my words). “Worth” though is not only about longevity. That’s one measure, sure. But relevance to the time in which the work is written and relevance to the readers of that time is, I’d argue, surely a “worthy” (ha!) measure of “worth” too. And that’s probably what awards in particular measure. Whether Wood stands the test of time, only time knows, but that she has captured something critical about our times can’t be denied if the universal acclaim this book is receiving is to be trusted. The judges certainly see it that way: they described the book as “‘a novel of – and for – our times” and “‘a riveting and necessary act of critique.”
Wood goes on in her speech to list some reasons to write, which are worth reading, but I’ll conclude with her argument about the importance of art:
Art is a candle flame in the darkness: it urges us to imagine and inhabit lives other than our own, to be more thoughtful, to feel more deeply, to challenge what we think we already know. Art declares that we contain multitudes, that more than one thing can be true at once. And it gives us a breathing space – a space in which we can listen more than talk, where we can attentively question our own beliefs, a place to find stillness in a chaotic world. I hope that my novel has provided some of those things: provocation, yes, but also beauty and stillness.
Now, I’m off to do some of my own form of stillness – yoga. Catch you all later …