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My literary week (2), or so

June 5, 2016

No, I’m not going to write weekly “My literary week” posts – my last one was, anyhow, two weeks ago – but sometimes things happen that I want to share, and bundling them up seems the best way to do it.

Miles Franklin Award Shortlist

The shortlist for Australia’s best known literary award was announced last week – actually, just over a week ago, hence the “or so” in my post title. I had only read two books on the longlist – you are quite justified in wondering what on earth I’ve been reading over the last months! – and neither of them were on the list. The two I had read were both by male authors, but the shortlist of five comprises four female authors and one male. The list is:

  • Hope Farm, by Peggy Frew
  • Leap, by Myfanwy Jones
  • Black rock white city, by A.S. Patrić
  • Salt Creek, by Lucy Treloar
  • The natural way of things, by Charlotte Wood

Last year was the same, and the previous year four of the six shortlisted books were by women. Indeed, since 2012, the year the Stella Prize was established (first awarded in 2013), women have featured very well on the shortlists. The main change, though, has not so much been in gender balance of the shortlists, but in that of the winners. Up to 2011, male writers had won the prize over three times more than women had – but women have won the last four years. Is this gender politics at play? I hope not, because that denigrates the value and meaning of the prize. Or, does it signify an increasing acceptance of more diverse subject matter and voices? I hope so, because that is what the move to promote women writers has been about.

Oh, and, while we are talking imbalances, I should point out that all five authors are apparently Melbourne-based, but we’ll let that through to the keeper this year. Those of us in other states will be watching though! (Just joking!)

Meanwhile, you can expect a review of Charlotte Wood’s book next week.

Quote of the week

Sonya Hartnett, Golden boysI nearly wrote a post just to share the following quote. My fellow bloggers will know how frustrating it is when we can’t include all our favourite quotes from a book in a post. Well, this week, I’m going to share one more quote from Sonya Hartnett’s Golden boys (my review) because it’s a beautiful example of her use of imagery. The quote comes early in the novel when tough, street-wise, working class 10-year old Syd meets the similarly-aged but soft, dependent, well-to-do Bastian:

Syd and Bastian look at each other, and it’s like a Jack Russell being introduced to a budgerigar: in theory they could be friends, but in practice sooner or later there will be bright feathers on the floor.

Need she say any more?

PS I have another favourite quote this week, but I have already posted it in my Washington Irving post. It’s his statement that he hides his morals from sight, disguising it with “sweets and spices” so that the reader might “have a bolus of sound morality popped down his throat, and be never the wiser for the fraud”. Don’t you love the cheekiness of it?

… and then there was lunch

During the week, I lunched, with a good friend who is also in my reading group, at Muse, a favourite local cafe which describes itself as “a space where good food, great wine and the magic of the written word come together”. In other words, it is a cafe, bookshop (for new and secondhand books) and event venue located in one of Canberra’s boutique hotels. I have bought a signed first edition Thomas Keneally, Three cheers for the Paraclete, here. I treasure it. Anyhow, before my friend arrived, one of the owners and I chatted books, what we were currently reading – he saw me reading Charlotte Wood’s The natural way of things – and upcoming events, which will include Arnold Zable. Yes!

And then my friend arrived and we continued our discussion, from reading group the previous night, of Sonya Hartnett’s Golden boys – because there’s always more to discuss when you read a good book! We particularly talked about the ending – how well did it work – and about Hartnett’s decision to set it in the 1970s given its concerns – pedophilia and domestic violence – are very relevant today. No great resolutions, of course, but it was good to tease out ideas a little more.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2016 10:04 pm

    Next time I’m in Canberra, you’ll have to remind me about where this cafe is, please!

  2. Annette Marfording permalink
    June 6, 2016 9:05 am

    I share your problem Sue. Several of the long- and shortlisted books always escape me…
    From the shortlist, I’ve only read Peggy Frew’s and Charlotte Wood’s. I loved the former, but despite its great intentions found the latter flawed – I think my only ally on this is Marieke Hardy from ABC’s book club…

    • June 6, 2016 10:20 am

      Glad I’m not the only one re not managing them all Annette. Re Wood, finished last night and still processing what I think! Will post review in a couple of days. Will look forward to your thoughts then…

      • June 7, 2016 12:37 pm

        Looking forward to your thoughts on the Charlotte Wood novel, Sue. Annette, you and Marieke are not alone!

        • June 7, 2016 1:25 pm

          AH, Michelle, the pressure is mounting! But I agree that there are a few naysayers out there. I’m still processing, fence sitting a little I think. It needs to gel a little more.

  3. June 6, 2016 9:17 am

    One more time and your ‘Literary Week’ will be a habit! And we your loyal readers will be expecting it. On bookshops, my local, Crow Books, doesn’t sell coffee but a while ago I asked him to find me a copy of Keneally’s To Asmara which I wished to give to an African friend and he came up with a signed first edition from America for $40.

    • June 6, 2016 10:23 am

      Haha Bill, I’d better watch myself. Don’t want to sit up too many expectations I can’t fulfil but they may become an ad hoc feature here. As for Keneally, that price sounds about right. Mine was $35.

  4. Meg permalink
    June 7, 2016 10:59 am

    Hi Sue, your lunch sounds wonderful. A place I will go to one day. I am not impressed with the Miles Franklin shortlist. Though I would like to see Hope Farm or Black Rock White City, to win. I am so glad you enjoyed the Golden Boys. I was a bit disappointed last year when it didn’t win the Miles Franklin Award. To me there are always imbalances in awards – lol.

    • June 7, 2016 11:59 am

      Thanks Meg. I haven’t read enough of the shortlist – doh – to comment. I’ve heard Patrić is great and will try to read it before August at least. I thought Golden boys a wonderful read. But yes, there are always imbalances in awards – doesn’t achieve anything I think to get hot under the collar about them – unless you really think there’s been unfair collusion or influence brought to play in the formation of the panel or the decision making. (There’s always going to be some subjectivity in formation of the panel I expect – who knows who, who’s prepared to do it, etc – but I like to think that they are chosen as much as possible with an eye to diversity of all sorts!)

      And yes, do go to Muse if you are up this way – and do tell me you’re here. It’s been a LONG time since our lunch!

  5. June 8, 2016 5:29 am

    A very bookish week. Love the quote from Golden Boys!

    • June 8, 2016 7:48 am

      Thanks, Stefanie. It’s a perfect quote I think – fresh but absolutely clear re its meaning.

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