This is a book of (mostly) gentle anecdote as Susan Hill discusses books she is reading, and has read, the comings and goings of animals and birds around her house, and reflections on writers she has known (quite a lot of well-known ones such as J B Priestly, Iris Murdoch and Julian Barnes) – all set amidst the changing seasons. Of course she also reflects on her own writing and her writing life, quite amusingly about being pestered by school students to explain the meaning of ‘The Woman in Black’ which is a set text (it would never have crossed my mind to do this when I was a student but email is a double-edged sword). There is a sense of nostalgia but she is never sentimental and, to me, there is something very satisfying about an intelligent person just speaking her mind as though you are a long-standing friend who doesn’t require being pandered to.
Congratulations to the winners of the Margaret River Press Short Story Competition 2018. I’m pleased to say my story ‘On Either Side’ was shortlisted and will appear in the anthology that comes out in June this year. Margaret River is a small press but has a good reputation for publishing interesting titles. Their yearly anthology of short stories is one of the few remaining ones that come out in book form (I can think of ‘Best Australian Stories’ and ‘Award Winning Australian Stories’ …). The complete list of shortlisters and winners is below.
MRP 2018 SHORT STORY SHORTLIST
Jessica ANDREATTA – Ring Pull Art
Judith BRIDGE – Foodies
Abigayle CARMODY – No Harm Done
Zoe DELEUIL – Setting Sail
Penny GIBSON – Small Fish
Ashley GOLDBERG – Soap
Cassie HAMER – Habitat *Second Prize*
Tiffany HASTIE – The Chopping Block *Southwest Prize*
Good Reading Magazine is running a competition to win one of 10 copies of The Great Unknown. Click here to go to the website.
This collection of strange and spooky stories was perfect reading for the lazy week between Christmas and New Year, providing a dark antidote to the forced cheeriness of the season … Contributors to the anthology were invited to write about the fantastical, uncanny, absurd, or, as editor Angela Meyer notes, ‘even just the slightly off’ … While the nineteen stories are diverse in style and content, this shared focus on the strange gives the anthology a pleasing coherence that many collections of short fiction lack … The combined effect of the pieces … reminded me of the pleasures of those puzzling and troubling moments in life, and in fiction, when logic is defied and image and association are required instead.
– Rachel Roberston Australian Book Review March, 2014.
Please keep a look out for the anthology of ghost, fantasy and horror stories The Great Unknown edited by Angela Meyer and published by Spineless Wonders (and which includes my story ‘Navigating’). These stories were all inspired by the Twilight Zone television series and so are creepy, uncanny and scary. What more do you want for those cicacda-filled nights in the beach house over summer? In bookshops now or from Spineless Wonders. (or click the image below in the sidebar).
‘In Paddy O’Reilly’s ‘Reality TV’, a guest is confronted with her husband’s infidelity under bright lights, while Ali Alizadeh’s ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ satirises American talk shows and a cultural obsession with sporting ‘heroes’. Chris Flynn’s ‘Sealer’s Cove’ has a nudist caught in a time slip. Carmel Bird evokes Edgar Allen Poe when oversized hares incite the folk of rural Victoria to commit criminal acts, and in ‘Sticks and Stones’ Ryan O’Neill has an academic attacked by a demonic alphabet.
There are darkly seductive artworks, disappearances and reappearances, altered realities, future visions, second chances, clever animals, knowing children, and strange presences in photographs and abandoned motels, in these stories by established and emerging writers. Contributors include Marion Halligan, Krissy Kneen, AS Patric, Damon Young, Chris Somerville, PM Newton, Deborah Biancotti and Kathy Charles.’
There’s a lot of buzz around this book and it’s quite amazing as Tea Obreht is only 25 years old. The head of the judging panel Bettany Hughes (of Helen of Troy fame) said:
“The Tiger’s Wife is an exceptional book and Téa Obreht is a truly exciting new talent. Obreht’s powers of observation and her understanding of the world are remarkable. By skilfully spinning a series of magical tales she has managed to bring the tragedy of chronic Balkan conflict thumping into our front rooms with a bittersweet vivacity.
“The book reminds us how easily we can slip into barbarity, but also of the breadth and depth of human love. Obreht celebrates storytelling and she helps us to remember that it is the stories that we tell about ourselves, and about others, that can make us who we are and the world what it is.”
Three Australian authors have made it onto the Dublin IMPAC literary award (nominees are put forward by libraries).
David Malouf for Ransom, Craig Silvey for Jasper Jones and Evie Wyld for After the Fire, A Still, Small Voice.
Interestingly enough, it was San Diego Public Library that nominated Wyld, while the SA State Library nominated Silvey and the National Library and the NSW State library nominated Malouf. See full shortlist.
There has been a brouhaha about the three-book short list for the Miles Franklin Award – the list being all male. The year before last, there was also a controversy when the long list was all male, so the judges would have been well aware of what they were doing, in this case. I’m sure the three books on the list are worthy – they are high-end literary and dealing (at least with Bereft and the That Deadman Dance) with pretty serious issues (When Colts Ran is an outback, male-centred story). But as many other people have said: are male writers really that much better than female writers? Or do men choose what our culture still regards as more weighty, serious, important subjects and treatments, and thus these works are more suited to a culturally prestigious award?
Of the novels that have won the Miles Franklin for the last 10 years, only two are by women – Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire (Hazzard is a very intellectual serious novelist of the old school) and the other was Carpentaria by indigenous writer Alexis Wright – a big and highly ambitious work.
The ten all up are:
* 2010 Peter Temple Truth
* 2009 Tim Winton Breath * 2008 Steven Carroll The Time We Have Taken
* 2007 Alexis Wright Carpentaria * 2006 Roger McDonald The Ballad of Desmond Kale
* 2005 Andrew McGahan The White Earth
* 2004 Shirley Hazzard The Great Fire
* 2003 Alex Miller Journey to the Stone Country
* 2002 Tim Winton Dirt Music
* 2001 Frank Moorhouse Dark Palace.
I have to admit to not having read a single one of the above. I started Dark Palace but hated it. I also started Dirt Music and didn’t get very far with that either. Now I come to think of it, a certain masculine outlook in both books turned me off. I also avoided Truth , after trying to read The Broken Shore, and again not being able to get onto the wavelength of the writer (I know I’m in a minority here).
So perhaps reading the Miles Franklin winner is like eating your greens – you know it’s good for you even if it’s not to your taste. If it’s any consolation to the women who perpetually miss out on the award, I think women writers have a bigger readership than male writers (Tim Winton excepted).
The whole issue of women missing out on major literary prizes was the impetus behind the Orange Prize in the UK and, ironically, there have been rumblings over the last few years over whether there should be a prize based on gender at all (the playing field being so flat now, after all!!) There is a women-only prize in Australia, the Kibble Literary Award (for novels and life writing), and it is quite lucrative at $30,000, but who has heard of it?
There is also the Barbara Jefferis Award for “the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society”. This definition means that male authors can also enter (only one brave male did so last time). G L Osborne won the most recent award with Come Inside. But, sad to say, this award hardly rates national media attention (although the Orange prize is quite high profile). So I guess you could say having such prizes doesn’t really address the problem of womens’ writing being regarded as less culturally significant than mens’.
I think the Miles Franklin Award long-list looks interesting this year. Absent are the mega names that turn up year after year. No Peter Carey, no David Malouf, no Alex Miller, no Helen Garner, Louis Nowra, Kate Grenville, Tim Winton etc. With the dinosaurs away, the small, furry mammals can peep out of their burrows. Okay, Kim Scott won the Miles Franklin back in 2000 with Benang but he’s hardly a household name and Roger McDonald won if for The Ballad of Desmond Kale a few years ago but, on the whole, the list is of newish or low-key writers.
John Bauer and Kirsten Tranter are debut authors and the nominations for Chris Womersley, Honey Brown and Patrick Holland are for their second books. It’s surprising to see Melina Marchetta there – not because she’s not a good writer, she’s a great writer – but because she’s known as a YA author (The Piper’s Son is short-listed for the NSW Premier’s Award under YA).
Rocks in the Belly, Jon Bauer, Scribe Publications
The Good Daughter, Honey Brown, Viking (Penguin)
The Mary Smokes Boys, Patrick Holland, Transit Lounge Publishing
The Piper’s Son, Melina Marchetta, Viking (Penguin)
When Colts Ran, Roger McDonald, Vintage (Random House)
Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts, HarperVoyager (HarperCollins)
SCIENCE FICTION Novel
Song of Scarabaeous, Sara Creasy, EOS Books
Mirror Space, Marianne de Pierres, Orbit (Hachette)
Transformation Space, Marianne de Pierres, Orbit (Hachette)
You can see the full list in all categories here. It’s interesting to look through the categories and the publishers. One finalist, Andrea K Höst’s, novel was self-published. It seems that in the world of speculative fiction, the mainstream publishers – Penguin and HarperVoyager, mostly, stick to YA and to fantasy. The horror and science fiction publishing goes mostly to niche publishers.
Indie Book of the Year 2011 is The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do (chosen by independent booksellers).
Other category winners are:
Bereft Chris Womersley – Best Fiction,
Rocks in the Belly Jon Bauer – Best Debut Fiction
Mirror Jeannie Baker – Best Children’s Book.
Mirror is a picture book is made up of two parts designed to be read simultaneously – one on the left, the other on the right. It’s the story of a day in the lives of two boys – one from inner-city Sydney and the other from a village in Morocco.