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
I 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.