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Stella Prize 2017 Longlist

February 7, 2017

“I feel like we’re at the Oscars for nerds” tweeted Tracey Spicer, ABC Journalist, at tonight’s announcement of the 2017 Stella Prize Longlist. Love it. Nerds of the world unite!

When the longlist (of 12) was announced last year, I had read and reviewed only one of the books. By the end of the year, I had read 6 which I’m satisfied with given how much I read last year overall. This year I haven’t read any (yet)! Really? Where have I been?

The judges are different again to last year’s, with just the chair continuing. They are writer Delia Falconer, bookseller Diana Johnston, writer/memoirist Benjamin Law, academic/Chair of First Nations Australia Writers’ Network Inc. Sandra Phillips, and writer/chair Brenda Walker.

Anyhow, here is the longlist, including, sadly, two posthumous nominations:

  • Victoria: the queen by Julia Baird (HarperCollins/Biography)
  • Between a wolf and a dog by Georgia Blain (Scribe/Novel) (Posthumous)
  • The hate race by Maxine Beneba Clarke (Hachette/Memoir)
  • Poum and Alexandre by Catherine de Sainte Phalle (Transit Lounge/Novel)
  • Offshore: Behind the wire at Manus and Nauru by Madeline Gleeson (NewSouth/Non-fiction)
  • Avalanche by Julia Leigh (WW Norton/Memoir)
  • An isolated incident by Emily Maguire (Picador/Novel) (Lisa named this as her book of the year last year, so I really should make this a priority)
  • The high places: Stories by Fiona McFarlane (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Short stories)
  • Wasted: A story of alcohol, grief and a death in Brisbane by Elspeth Muir (Text/Biography-Memoir)
  • The museum of modern love by Heather Rose (Allen & Unwin/Novel)
  • Dying: A memoir by Cory Taylor (Text/Memoir) (Posthumous)
  • The media and the massacre: Port Arthur 1996-2016 by Sonya Voumard (Transit Lounge/Nonfiction)

As usual a mixed lot, but a different mix to last year’s. There’s significantly more non-fiction (more than half in fact), including a few memoirs – and fewer short stories. I suppose it’s purely coincidental, but I was surprised at the number of memoirs/autobiographies/biographies I read last year. Are memoirs making a come-back? I note that the list seems to be rather low on “diversity”, but two of the judges could be seen to represent diverse backgrounds, so presumably that issue was canvassed.

I have read and liked all the Stella Prize winners to date: Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with birds, Clare Wright’s The forgotten rebels of Eureka, Emily Bitto’s The strays and Charlotte Wood’s The natural way of things. I look forward to seeing which of the above books wins this year …

The shortlist will be announced on March 8, and the winner on April 18.

52 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2017 21:12

    Interesting list & I’ve only read 1 – The Hate Race.

    • February 7, 2017 21:16

      Good for you Brona, thats a start. My daughter received it for Christmas so I will hopefully borrow it sometime.

  2. February 7, 2017 21:26

    An interesting list… guess it shows the diversity of genres, if not the diversity of the women writing them 😉

    I’ve read “Dying: A memoir” and “The media and the massacre” and have a couple of others on my list… but, as per usual, most of these aren’t available in the UK.

    • February 7, 2017 21:28

      Oh, you’re doing well kimbofo! And yes, certainly some diversity in genres and subject matter, that’s for sure.

      • February 7, 2017 21:47

        I’ve just checked Amazon… all but An Isolated Incident are available as Kindle editions, so it’s not as bad as I thought… I just don’t much like reading Kindle books.

        • February 7, 2017 22:23

          No I don’t either, but if you really want something the eBook can be wonderful. My rule of thumb is non-Australian books on kindle, Australia on paper, but I break that rule every now and then when I want some Aussie book NOW!

  3. Meg permalink
    February 7, 2017 21:40

    It is certainly a mixed lot. I have read six of the nominations and have a few on reserve at the library. I read An Isolated Incident last year, and it still lingers in my mind. An excellent read.

    • February 7, 2017 21:46

      Your reading is very impressive Meg. And clearly I need to read the Maguire, don’t I? What is your pick so far – or would you rather not say?

  4. February 8, 2017 02:03

    The prize winner may make it over here….

  5. February 8, 2017 04:48

    You haven’t read any of the books on the longlist? Tsk tsk! Better get going! 😉 Seriously though, I like how the prize mixes genres instead of giving them all their own category. it must make for some interesting judges discussions!

    • February 8, 2017 07:21

      I like that aspect too Stefanie. I’m sure it makes things interesting for judges and wouldn’t we love to eavesdrop on their spirited conversations!

      • February 8, 2017 08:33

        We sure would Karenlee. I bet there are some great laughs as well as intense discussions on all sorts of topics.

    • February 8, 2017 08:29

      Yes it must I agree Stefanie… But I agree. Thus was one of their founding principles. So far the winner has been literary fiction every time but one. It will be interesting to see what happens this time.

      • February 8, 2017 08:45

        That makes me want to cheer for a nonfiction title!

        • February 8, 2017 08:47

          You must be an Aussie deep-down Stefanie – cheering for the underdog! It’s going to be a tough one I’d say because some of that fiction is very strong. Next stop the shortlist …

        • February 9, 2017 01:19

          Can I be an honorary Aussie? 😀

        • February 9, 2017 01:23

          You’ll have to learn the Aussie salute and how to throw a prawn on the barbie, you know! But yes, with those provisos I reckon you can!

        • February 9, 2017 01:28

          Hmm, well I won’t be throwing any prawns on the barbie, can we sub with veg? If so, I’m all in!

        • February 9, 2017 01:30

          Well, just for you (but, shh, don’t tell anyone).

        • February 9, 2017 01:32

          Our secret!

        • February 9, 2017 01:59

          Absolutely – I know you’re trustworthy and won’t breathe it to a soul or I wouldn’t make this concession.

  6. February 8, 2017 08:05

    Thanks for the link:), much appreciated!
    I’ve also read the Voumard (excellent, it was on my Best Books for 2016 list too and the Blain (her best book yet, such a loss). I reviewed it a month before she died, and I’m glad I did because I don’t think I could have written it in the same way if I’d read it afterward:
    And I’m about half way through Heather Rose’s one. It’s much more cerebral than I had expected.
    PS I’m not surprised by the cringeworthy tweet: I have been to some of these award presentation ceremonies and discovered that (if they read at all) most of the rent-a-crowd media people I met never read any literary fiction, and that Australian books are not on their radar.

    • February 8, 2017 08:36

      Why did you go into moderation, Lisa!? WordPress can be weird can’t it?

      Yes I have to read the Blain too. And many of the others!

      • February 8, 2017 08:40

        Because I had two links in my comment, probably. Akismet automatically puts comments into moderation if they have multiple links:)

        • February 8, 2017 08:42

          Oh yes, of course. I keep forgetting it does that. Thanks for reminding me.

  7. February 8, 2017 10:44

    Looks like an interesting list. I have also noticed how many memoirs there seem to be out there. Everyone is getting old and looking back on their life. Is that it? I want to read the media one related to Port Arthur and other incidents. Sounds interesting.

    • February 8, 2017 11:02

      Yes, it is interesting isn’t it, Pam – and they are moving beyond that 1990s phase of misery memoirs to things a little more “nuanced” I think, albeit that most memoirs deal with hard stuff because that’s what’s interesting it seems!!

  8. February 8, 2017 15:29

    Lisa Hill made a very interesting comment elsewhere, noting that there was no genre fiction on the longlist (and nor had genre fiction ever been on the longlist). Yet this year when the Prize opened apparently the organisers specifically mentioned the high numbers of women writing in genre fiction categories (eg romance, crime, speculative fiction, etc). Drawing on your previous discussion, Sue, I wonder how many publishers bother entering genre fiction into prizes?

    • February 8, 2017 17:26

      Interesting point, Michelle. They did argue when it was established that the prize would be open to genre, and there was some genre in the very first list – Lisa Jacobson’s Sunlit zone (sci fi verse novel) and Margo Lanagan’s Sea hearts (fantasy/sci fi). There has always been historical fiction in the list – starting with The burial in the first list. I don’t think there’s be crime yet (but I’d have to check all the lists.)

      There’s always the question of when is genre ALSO literary or when does it BECOME literary, if that makes sense. Of course, I’m suggesting here that a work (genre or not) has to be “literary” (which to me means breaking the mould in some way) to be in the running – because I think the winner does have to be “special” in some way? Is this making sense?

      But yes, I was wondering myself, particularly regarding that discussion, what books had been submitted. It would be great to see wouldn’t it.

      • February 8, 2017 22:35

        Sisters in Crime Australia considers Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident to be a crime novel 🙂

        • February 8, 2017 23:08

          Thanks Angela! I was wondering if it were, but haven’t read it yet myself, so am glad to have that confirmed.

        • February 9, 2017 09:44

          The Sisters define the genre broadly, embracing works even the authors don’t think of as crime fiction!

        • February 9, 2017 12:08

          Good for them I say… Always better to be inclusive don’t you think!

        • February 12, 2017 16:53

          Couldn’t agree more.

  9. February 8, 2017 15:57

    In fiction, Goegia Blain’s and Emily Maguire’s novels are both great – the former making it to my top ten reads of 2016 list.Wasn’t so keen on Fiona McFarlane’s. I haven’t read any of the others, but suspect, given the current ‘climate’, they might go for topical non-fiction: Maxine Beneba Clarke, Madeline Gleeson or Cory Taylor.

    • February 8, 2017 17:27

      Thanks for this input Annette. Yes, I wonder the same about a topical non-fiction perhaps being this year’s winner.

  10. February 8, 2017 21:25

    Disappointed that Kim Mahood missed out for ‘Position Doubtful’. The Emily Maguire and Georgia Blain novels are both wonderful and deserve a shortlisting. Looking forward to the shortlist!

    • February 8, 2017 21:34

      Yes, good comment John. I tend not to get into those questions but I’m glad you’ve mentioned that one. I guess we have to presume it was submitted.

  11. February 8, 2017 22:36

    I’m pleased to see Julia Leigh’s Avalanche on the long list, a gem of a book.

    • February 8, 2017 23:09

      Again, thanks Angela. I’ve heard her interview on ABC RN and she was wonderfully articulate. I’d love to find time to read it.

  12. February 10, 2017 08:39

    I didnt expect to have read any of these – and i was right! I am however reading Peter Carey at the moment so maybe that will be my salvation for all you Aussie writing advocates.

    • February 10, 2017 10:34

      Not surprised Karen – and would have been mortified if you had! So, thanks! Which Peter Carey are you reading?

      • February 11, 2017 04:28

        it’s Oscar and Lucinda which if my memory is accurate is one you recommended me to go for from my list of remaining Booker titles

        • February 11, 2017 08:56

          Great, yes I would certainly have recommended that one. I really should read it again.


  1. The 2017 Stella Prize longlist | Reading Matters

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