Stella Prize 2017 Longlist

“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 thoughts on “Stella Prize 2017 Longlist

  1. 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.

      • 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.

        • 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. Thanks for the link:), much appreciated!
    I’ve also read the Voumard (excellent, it was on my Best Books for 2016 list too https://anzlitlovers.com/2016/05/13/the-media-and-the-massacre-by-sonya-voumard/) 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: https://anzlitlovers.com/2016/11/02/between-a-wolf-and-a-dog-by-georgia-blain/
    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.

  5. 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.

    • 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!!

  6. 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?

    • 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Pingback: The 2017 Stella Prize longlist | Reading Matters

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