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Stella Prize 2018 Longlist

February 8, 2018

I don’t do well at having read the Stella Prize longlist at the time of its announcement, and in fact last year I’m ashamed to admit that I’d read none. Terrible really for someone who’s supposed to be interested in Australian women’s writing, but there you go. My excuse is that I’m always behind in reading current books. Unfortunately, by the end of last year, I’d still only read three of the 12-strong 2017 longlist – but those I read were good’uns! If only there were more hours in the day – or, perhaps, fewer other things to do!

Anyhow, I can say that 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, Charlotte Wood’s The natural way of things, and last year’s winner, Heather Rose’s The museum of modern love.

The judges are again different to last year’s, which is good to see. It must surely keep the prize fresh to introduce new eyes, new perspectives, each year. (The chair, Fiona Stager, has been a judge a couple of times before, but some experience doesn’t go astray does it?) The 2018 judges are writer Julie Koh, critic James Ley, bookshop-owner Fiona Stager (the chair), writer and publisher Louise Swinn, and writer Ellen van Neerven (whom I’ve reviewed a few times here).

Bernadette Brennan, A writing life Helen Garner and her workAnyhow, here is the longlist,

  • The enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, by Shokoofeh Azar (novel/Wild Dingo Press)
  • A writing life: Helen Garner and her work, by Bernadette Brennan (literary portrait/Text Publishing) (my review)
  • Anaesthesia: The gift of oblivion and the mystery of consciousness, by Kate Cole-Adams (science-based non-fiction/Text Publishing)
  • Terra nullius, by Claire G Coleman (novel/Hachette Australia) (I’ll review in March)
  • The life to come, by Michelle de Kretser (novel/Allen & Unwin) (on my TBR pile)
  • This water: Five tales, by Beverley Farmer (short stories; novellas/Giramondo) (I love Beverley Farmer)
  • The green bell: A memoir of love, madness and poetry, by Paula Keogh (memoir/Affirm Press)
  • An uncertain grace, by Krissy Kneen (novel/Text Publishing)
  • The choke, by Sofie Laguna (novel/Allen & Unwin) (on my TBR, and am very keen to read having attended a lively conversation with her last year)
  • Martin Sharp: His life and times, by Joyce Morgan (biography/Allen & Unwin)
  • The fish girl, by Miranda Riwoe (novella/Seizure)
  • Tracker, by Alexis Wright (memoir/biography/Giramondo)

So, I’ve read and reviewed one, and will definitely read another, Terra nullius, by March. I have bought or been given a couple of others, and am keen to read a few more. On the other hand, there are a couple here that I hadn’t heard of at all – the books by Azar and Morgan.

The judges commented that the longlist

… challenges the reader to experience the pleasures of reading different forms of writing: speculative fiction, novella, memoir, biography, non-narrative nonfiction, history, short stories and work in translation.

I like this. Last year, I noted that there was significantly more non-fiction (more than half in fact), fewer short stories, and not much diversity. This year fiction represents just over half, and only a couple of the non-fiction are memoirs. Three of the non-fiction works are about writers and artists – Helen Garner, Michael Dransfield and Martin Sharp. This year’s list is significantly more diverse too, with indigenous writers Claire G Coleman and Alexis Wright, an Iranian born writer in Shokoofeh Azar, Riwoe’s book set in Indonesia, and our now well known Sri Lankan born writer Michelle de Kretser whose book is set in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka. Of course, as always, there are books I would like to have seen here but, overall, it’s an interesting list and I hope to have read more of it by the end of this year than I did last.

Meanwhile, I’d love to know if you have any thoughts on the list.

The shortlist will be announced on March 8 (International Women’s Day, as has become tradition), and the winner in April.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. sharkell permalink
    February 8, 2018 21:56

    I’ve read Terra Nullius and I’m very happy it’s on the list – I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on the shortlist.

    • February 8, 2018 22:03

      Thanks sharkell. From the buzz around it, I wouldn’t be surprised either but I won’t pass final judgement until I read it next month. Can’t wait.

      • sharkell permalink
        February 9, 2018 06:34

        I’m looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

        • February 9, 2018 08:10

          Thanks… And I’ll love to see your response when I do read it and write it up.

  2. February 8, 2018 22:17

    I’ve read (and reviewed) some of these: The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree (interesting because it’s a rare example of a book written in Australia in Persian and translated); Terra Nullius, The Life to Come, and This Water, Five Tales. I’ve got Tracker on the TBR, but gosh it’s long, 600+ pages…

    • February 8, 2018 22:56

      Thanks Lisa. I knew you’d done some, but I’d completely forgotten you’d done the Greengage Tree. I remember it now you’ve described it. I’d really like to read Farmer, and of course Wright, but 600+ pages is a bit daunting I agree.

  3. February 9, 2018 08:47

    This is a prize I’ve not paid much attention to – maybe those titles are not as visible in UK?? My heart says I’d love to make up for that gap in my reading but my head is telling me that even if I went out and bought them now, would I get around to reading them any time soon???

  4. February 9, 2018 10:05

    My first thought is how stressful it can be when so many new, excellent sounding books bombard us from every direction and just not enough life to get to them all. I think this is a really interesting list and I would love to read one or two at least. The Kate Cole-Adams appeals to me as a topic and I have The Choke on my shelf as I won it from the publisher last year. Maybe a good place to ‘think’ about starting. Thanks for sharing this list.

    • February 9, 2018 12:42

      Yes I know what you mean, Pam. I’m going to start with De Kretser and Laguna I think. Partly because I have them!

  5. February 9, 2018 15:06

    I love the Stella Prize! I try to read the shortlist every year, but don’t always make it through the longlist. Of these, I have read four: Kneen – one of my favourite, and most challenging, reads of last year – Cole-Adams, Laguna and Riwoe. Next is Coleman then Keogh. I have only just started Terra Nullius but would be surprised if it doesn’t make the shortlist.

    • February 9, 2018 15:35

      Oh good for you Agnes. I’d like to read them all. There’s not one there that’s not interesting is there. But I can never commit to reading shortlists because of other reading commitments. I’ve read one Kneen before and liked it.

      • February 9, 2018 16:13

        Well, this is the only award I aim to read the shortlist for, so that makes it easier. I used to try to read the winners of so many different awards that I always fell short, feeling frustrated and inadequate. Also a newer prize, which I’ve followed since inception, so no pressure to try to catch up on past winners. I’ve never read a Stella-listed book that I hated. I certainly don’t envy the task the judges have ahead of them!

        • February 9, 2018 16:27

          Yes, I’ve followed it too from the beginning, and have donated several times, but wish I could say I’ve kept up! Such a great prize.

  6. February 9, 2018 20:41

    I also became frustrated when I look at the list of books that I want to read that I have not read. I also neglect new books. There is so little time.

    Diversity in book lists and awards are a good thing. I agree that non – fiction is too often neglected.

    • February 9, 2018 22:07

      Thanks Brian. That’s one of the great things about this award – it’s all forms and genres. Although fiction has won in the end most times. As for new books, it’s impossible to keep up.

  7. February 10, 2018 00:19

    I liked Kate W’s “longlist” which included Drawing Sybylla by Odette Kelada and From the Wreck by Jane Rawson, both of which I enjoyed. Of the actual longlist I’ve only read Terra Nullius, but will buy and read the Krissy Kneen very soon.

    • February 10, 2018 05:05

      Yes, I rather thought, from what I’d heard, Bill, that those might be on the list. However, I drafted my post before the long list came out – that is I wrote the beginning and end, and pretty much just added the list, my “assessmen”t and the quote from the judges after the announcement. I did though pre-populate the list with two books that I thought were likely certainties and so they turned out, Coleman and De Kretser. Wouldn’t you love to know which were the last books to be whittled out, and also which ones were unanimous, or almost so, and which ones had to be argued strenuously for over others.

      • February 10, 2018 08:50

        I suppose the eventual shortlist tells us some of that. The buzz around Terra Nullius surprises me. I loved the book but thought the actual writing had a way to go compared with more mature writers like, say de Kretser or Alexis Wright

        • February 10, 2018 11:09

          Interesting Bill. I guess there are several criteria being used, such as innovation in ideas, technique, etc, even if it’s not completely pulled off? I’m just guessing as I’ve not read the nominated books, though of course I’ve read de Kretser and Wright.

  8. Meg permalink
    February 10, 2018 06:45

    Hi Sue, I have read six of them on the list, and I won’t read any more on the list until the short list is announced. So far I would be happy with any of the following if they won; The Choke, This Life to Come or Terra Nullius. The list seems fair and varied enough, and of course there could be more on the list. I wouldn’t be any good as a judge as my list would keep growing.

    • February 10, 2018 11:06

      Haha, thanks Meg, I wouldn’t be good as a judge either. I like your picks for wins as they are the ones I have in my pile and want to read. However I’m keen to read others too. And although the list could have been different, I can’t really argue, from what I know, with the actual list, either.

  9. February 10, 2018 23:22

    I’ve only managed Terra Nullius so far! So much reading inspiration! I read the blurb of Tracker in a bookstore the other day and it looks fascinating

    • February 10, 2018 23:27

      I agree Angharad. All the books as ours really interesting to me… I love the Stella Prize. They always include some somewhat left-of-field books.

      • February 10, 2018 23:28

        I’m all about left-field books! P.S. bought my Friends membership today!

        • February 10, 2018 23:33

          Oh good for you. It’s so worth it. Will email about a catch up later in Feb? I am in Melbourne and then have another trip away for a few days the week after I get back. Can’t think beyond all that right now!

        • February 13, 2018 21:11

          No problem at all – I only just got back to Canberra from helping my dad out

        • February 14, 2018 06:07

          Hope your Dad is OK.

  10. buriedinprint permalink
    February 26, 2018 08:08

    I’ve done such a terrible job of following the Stella Prize, in terms of actually reading the nominated titles. I do a great job of adding them to my TBR! That’s part of the reason why I joined the AW reading challenge this year, because I needed some extra incentive to get back to Australian reading, just watching those Stella books pile on! Meanwhile, that’s just as well, as it often seems to take a couple of years to get them here (via the library anyway), so it will probably work out just fine. Last month, I read a Helen Garner and next I am heading for some Elizabeth Jolley, so not even Stella territory, but Stella background, right?

    • February 26, 2018 08:55

      Haha, Stella background, yes, Buried, I’d accept that. I’m hopeless at reading the nominated titles and I’ve got no excuse!

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