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.