I don’t do well at having read the Stella Prize longlist at the time of its announcement. In 2017 I’d read none, and last year I improved on that by having read one of the 12-strong longlist. By the end of the year, though, I had read five, which is good for me, given in 2017, I’d only read three. How will I go this year?
I do have a BIG fail though, which is that until now I had read all the winners – 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 Heather Rose’s The museum of modern love – but I have yet to read 2018’s winner, Alexis Wright’s Tracker.
The judges are again different to last year’s – with the exception of the chair, Louise Swinn, who also judged last year – which is good to see. The 2019 judges are writer, journalist and broadcaster Daniel Browning; writer Michelle de Kretser (whom I’ve reviewed a couple of times here); bookseller Amelia Lush; Walkley Award-winning journalist Kate McClymont (who is in that Media Hall of Fame I wrote about a couple of weeks ago); and writer and publisher Louise Swinn (the chair). Once again attention has been paid to diversity on the panel.
Here is the longlist:
- Jenny Ackland’s Little gods (novel/Allen & Unwin) (my review)
- Stephanie Bishop’s Man out of time (novel/Hachette)
- Belinda Castle’s Bluebottle (novel/Allen & Unwin) (Theresa Smith Writes review)
- Enza Gandolfo’s The bridge (novel/Scribe) (Lisa’s review)
- Chloe Hooper’s The arsonist (non-fiction/Penguin Random House) (Lisa’s review)
- Gail Jones’ The death of Noah Glass (novel/Text)
- Jamie Marina Lau’s Purple Mountain on Locust Island (novel/Brow Books) (Amanda’s guest post here)
- Vicki Laveau-Harris’ The erratics (memoir/Finch Publishing)
- Bri Lee’s Eggshell skull (memoir/Allen & Unwin) (Kate’s – booksaremyfavouriteandbest – review)
- Melissa Lucashenko’s Too much lip (novel/UQP)(on my TBR, and coming up soon) (Lisa’s review)
- Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic (essays/Brow Books) (my review)
- Fiona Wright’s The world was whole (essays/Giramondo) (on my TBR – I loved her Small acts of disappearance)
So, I’ve read and reviewed just two – creeping up my one each year! – and have a guest post for a third on my blog. I have two more on my TBR right now, and a couple more I am very keen to read, including Chloe Hooper’s The arsonist. I have been out tonight, and so had tried to get a head start by partially drafting this before I went out with my “guesses” inserted – I had only 5 right!
The judges commented on the longlist that:
Reading for the Stella Prize … [is] a sample of the zeitgeist, a look at what is informing our thinking right now …
It feels like a big year for fiction, and our longlist reflects this. As well as some strong debuts, it was reassuring to see so many books from writers whose work we have admired for some time. Family relations and the persistence of the past in the present continue to inspire writers, and several books were concerned with the aftermath of trauma, especially sexual violence. Realism continues to dominate Australian fiction, with a few standout departures into other modes.
We wished for more representations of otherness and diversity from publishers: narratives from outside Australia, from and featuring women of colour, LGBTQIA stories, Indigenous stories, more subversion, more difference.
Ultimately, we chose books that strove for something big and fulfilled their own ambitions. … These are all artists concerned with the most important questions of our age and how to live now, and it has been a pleasure to be in their company.
I like their comment about a wish for more diversity – but I would expect nothing less from them. As always there are surprises, but that’s to be expected. It would be a sad world if we all came up with the same 12 eh?
Anyhow, 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.