The so-called ‘lost’ Booker prize (for 1970 when there was no prize awarded because of a change in the rules) has been won by J.G. Farrell for Troubles. Other contenders were Nina Bawden (The Birds on the Trees), Mary Renault (Fire From Heaven), Muriel Spark (The Driver’s Seat), and the ‘Aussies’: Patrick White (The Vivisector) and Shirley Hazzard (The Bay of Noon).
The prize was determined by popular vote on the Man Booker website from a shortlist chosen by three Gen X’ers born in 1970.
I find White and Hazard pretty unreadable but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have won. Peter Craven in the Sydney Morning Herald assessed the six novels and said there was “no finer piece of fiction on the list” than Spark’s The Driver’s Seat although Hazard’s novel, he wrote, “deserves a high place on [the] list”. He also rated Troubles highly – “a masterful novel that very slowly gathers momentum”. But he gave his vote to White’s The Vivisector, “a rich, all-encompassing novel full of passion, colour and the music of memory” which he read “some hot Christmas Day, a world ago, when I was young. How could I not give it my vote?” Indeed. Read Craven’s full piece here.
The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards were announced yesterday and J M Coetzee won the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction for Summertime, Cate Kennedy the People’s Choice Award (I voted!) for The World Beneath and the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing for Fiction went to Andrew Croome for Document Z.
I’m happy to see Coetzee and Cate Kennedy up there, although the extent to which Coetzee’s fictionalised memoir is really a great novel is perhaps debatable. I base this judgement on Youth, the predecessor to Summertime, which I have read and enjoyed as a self-excoriating account of university days, first jobs and first excruciating sexual relationships – but a novel, fiction? In true form Coetzee didn’t turn up to collect the award in person.
I thought Andrew Croome’s Document Z a strange choice for best new writing. He probably got top marks for choosing a subject – politics and espionage – that is unusual for a first novel in this country. Document Z is about the Petrov Affair, and is mainly set in Canberra in the fifties. Croome’s book is closer to the genre end than the literary and was up against Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming and Karen Hitchcock’s very well reviewed Little White Slips, amongst others.
It must be the prize season:
- Hillary Mantel, Wolf Hall
- Rosie Alison, The Very Thought of You
- Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna
- Attica Locke, Black Water Rising
- Lorrie Moore, Gate at the Stairs
- Monique Roffey, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
Lovesong, by Alex Miller
The Bath Fugues, by Brian Castro
Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey
The Book of Emmett, by Deborah Forster
Truth, by Peter Temple
Butterfly, by Sonya Hartnett
The Australian newspaper reports that Alex Miller let fly at the announcement do about the low profile of the Miles Franklin blaming Kevin Rudd for putting big money into the “Prime Ministers Award, which gets no publicity and will probably disappear when someone else becomes prime minister”.
He said the money should have been put into the Miles Franklin then Australia would have one premier award and not “a gaggle of prizes that people – and writers – would pay increasingly less attention to. Various Premier’s Literary Awards, for example, were essentially irrelevant”.
Miller seems to hold the Booker prize up as a role model. Whatever you think of the Booker it’s got publicity down to a fine art. But it also makes literature into a “winner takes all” roulette wager.
I agree the Miles Franklin Award has cache and should be promoted more (but, like the Booker, book sales here DO go up for the MF winner) but isn’t it also better to have a range of smaller (and regional) prizes to share the sunshine?
See the article in The Australian and also the A Pair of Ragged Claws blog comment here.
On another controversy, it’s good to see the women back (if only comprising 33%).
- J.M. Coetzee – Summertime
- Richard Flanagan – Wanting
- Cate Kennedy – The World Beneath
- Steven Lang – 88 Lines about 44 Women
- David Malouf – Ransom
- Craig Silvey – Jasper Jones
The public can vote for their choice in the People’s Choice Award at www.pla.nsw.gov.au/awards-shortlists.
The shortlist in the Best Designed Literary Fiction Book category includes: (Plus The China Garden see previous post)
For general fiction best book design are (plus American Rust which I’m not incuding):
A True History of the Hula Hoop, Ransom and Valley of Grace are the fiction finalists for Best Designed Cover.
I think the Andrew McGahan cover is lovely and I also like Good to a Fault which stands out in the bookshop but I can see Ransom has a wonderful simplicity as does The China Garden. We await the results!
- Lovesong Alex Miller
- The Bath Fugues Brian Castro
- Jasper Jones Craig Silvey
- Sons of the Rumour David Foster
- The Book of Emmett Deborah Forster
- Siddon Rock Glenda Guest
- Boy on a Wire Jon Doust
- Figurehead Patrick Allington
- Parrot and Olivier in America Peter Carey
- Truth Peter Temple
- Butterfly Sonya Hartnett
- The People’s Train Tom Keneally
The shortlist is announced in April and the winner in June.
The China Garden by Kristina Olsson has won the 2010 Barbara Jefferis Award ($35,000) 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’.
UQP notes: When her mother dies, Laura returns to her coastal hometown. At the reading of the will, Laura discovers that her mother had a child that she adopted out. She also bequeathed a painting to someone who is a stranger to Laura. These revelations completely shift Laura’s understanding of her mother. Her life becomes entangled with the lives of Cress, an older and respected member of the community, Kieran, Cress’ intellectually disabled grandson, and Abby, a teenaged girl who has become friends with Kieran.
The judges said: ‘The title refers to Angela’s garden and its broken pieces of china. This evocative image suggests that beauty can be created from what is broken and apparently irretrievable, but also the danger and sharpness of buried secrets. … Without feeling the need to resolve every absence or mystery, Olsson gently suggests that it is always possible to make new things out of the past, however fractured or painful.’
The other finalists were: The Lost Life, Steven Carroll, Swimming, Enza Gandolfo, The World Beneath Cate Kennedy and Headlong, Susan Varga.