Sydney Writers’ Festival 2012: tickets on sale

I’ve attended the Sydney Writers’ Festival as ‘media’ before but this year I’ll get to chat with some great authors on stage. I’m chairing three panels in one day, Thursday 17 May. If you see me that night, don’t be surprised if I’m drunk or asleep in the corner of the hotel bar.

Two of the sessions are free (so get there early if you’d like to come) and one is ticketed. Blurbs are from the SWF program:

The Second Time 

The second novel is notoriously difficult but it has not stopped Kirsten Tranter (A Common Loss), Deborah Forster (The Meaning of Grace) or Steven Amsterdam (What the Family Needed). Just to add to the pressure, each of them was listed for major Australian literary prizes for their first books. They tell Angela Meyer how they managed, and what was different the second time around.

11:30-12:30 Bangarra Mezzanine, Pier 4/5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, free.

Not Funny Strange

Humour seems to have taken a back seat in Australian literary fiction of recent years. But we found three recent books that make us wonder if humour is making a comeback. Chris Flynn’s A Tiger in Eden, PA O’Reilly’s The Fine Colour of Rust and Charlotte Wood’s Animal People all make use of the wry to either contrast or even to laugh out loud. They talk to Angela Meyer about how they do it.

1:00-2:00 Sydney Dance 1, Pier 4/5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, free.

Rural Romping

It’s a whole rural revival for a new crop of novels with PA O’Reilly creating the town of Gunapan as the setting for her The Fine Colour of Rust while Carrie Tiffany puts her characters in Mateship of Birds in the country town of Cohuna. They talk to Angela Meyer about why they decided to go bush.

4:00-5:00 Sydney Theatre, Richard Wherrett Studio, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, ticketed.

Of course, there’s a huge array of other events. Pour yourself a cup of tea and peruse the program. I’m definitely hoping to see Jeanette Winterson.

Hope to see you there!

Miles Franklin Award shortlist, 2010

Guten Tag.

I’ve a piece in today’s Crikey newsletter: Miles Franklin Award: Alex Miller Puts in the Boot. It begins: ‘Are there too many literary awards in Australia, and is our oldest one “slipping away”? If an Australian literary award was provided increased funding and focus, would the Miles Franklin be the most relevant?’ You can read it online here (not sure if it’s a subscriber-only area).

That piece discusses Alex Miller’s comments made at the shortlisting ceremony, and Australian literary awards in general, but what I didn’t comment on there are the shortlisted books themselves. They are Lovesong (Alex Miller), The Bath Fugues (Brian Castro), The Book of Emmett (Deborah Forster), Butterfly (Sonya Hartnett), Jasper Jones (Craig Silvey) and Truth (Peter Temple).

I think it’s an odd shortlist this year. I have only read Lovesong and Jasper Jones, and, I think it’s time I admitted something here that I’ve been reluctant to admit: I actually wasn’t a big fan of Jasper Jones. *shock* *horror* I know I’m pretty alone here, and the other reason I’ve been reluctant (to be perfectly honest) is that I’ve met Craig Silvey, and done a panel with him, and he’s a fantastic guy and a very hard-working writer, so I’m open to the idea that I just missed the magic somehow. After all, here it is on the Miles Franklin shortlist. What didn’t I like? I guess I just couldn’t believe in the characters – as clever and funny and well-rounded as they were, to me they felt too contemporary for the era and setting of the novel. Thus, each scenario felt a little forced and contrived. I thought the beginning was great, and the book had a nice mood to it, but overall I didn’t feel completely satisfied. Am I alone here?

As for Lovesong, I thought it was beautiful, but as you guys know (and as I’ve told Alex himself) it’s not my favourite of his novels. It’s a lighter novel, which it is absolutely meant to be, it’s joyous – and it still has depth and humour and layers of meaning and insight. But it’s not Landscape of Farewell or Conditions of Faith. What do you guys think? Have you read it? Do you think it’s even better than his other works?

I’ve been wanting to read Brian Castro’s The Bath Fugues. I have only heard magnificent things. Would anyone care to share their thoughts?

And The Book of Emmett, Butterfly and Truth I’m not sure I’ll get to. Part of the uniqueness of this year’s list is we have two borderline YA books: Butterfly and Jasper Jones. We also have a crime novel: Truth. It seems the judges have gone for books which are rather ‘accessible’ as opposed to heavier, more ‘literary’ novels. Do you agree?

And what about what’s missing? I would have loved to have seen Kalinda Ashton’s The Danger Game on there.

The winner will be announced on June 22. You can read my thoughts on last year’s winner, Tim Winton’s Breath here.