Provoking, presenting, plays, programs and the possessed

I fear with my opinion piece in Crikey the other day I may have misconstrued or misrepresented the words of one of my favourite authors, and someone I respect very much, Alex Miller. I think I raised some valid points (and I am certainly not the only one to have written on literary awards in Australia – see this great piece by Sam Cooney) but perhaps I shouldn’t really have raised them in Miller’s name. I guess his comments – which I only received second-hand, just got me thinking. I used them as an offshoot, but I realise now, that by doing that I skewed his words and his message a little. My article was basically a bunch of questions, and a prod, and I think that the general discussion happening is a worthy one. I definitely stand by my suggestions re the Booker Prize being a good model. And that the criteria of the Miles Franklin perhaps needs clarifying? Loosening? It is a good discussion to have and we’ll keep having it in the next few years, I’m guessing. But really, I prefer reading, writing on, and discussing the books themselves, and I’m going to try and keep that my focus.

So, books! And bookish events!

This coming weekend:

willyWilliamstown Literary Festival.
Here’s the full program.
My event is:

Literary Blogging. Sunday 2 May, 12.30PM – 1.30PM. Williamstown Town Hall. ‘Two blogs are created every second of every day. It’s not easy to stand out from the pack. But Angela Meyer and Lisa Dempster do.’

emergingThen, on 21 – 30 May is the Emerging Writers’ Festival. There are tons of great events. The program is now online, so check it out.
My event is:

Writing about place
‘Our writers discuss the importance of location in their writing. Is a sense of place important, how do you capture it, and do you have a responsibility to represent places or times in certain ways? And what if the place you’re writing about doesn’t even exist …?
With — Patrick Cullen, Leanne Hall, Sean Riley and Jenny Sinclair. Hosted by Angela Meyer.’

endgameI’m currently reading and loving Joel Magarey’s memoir of travel, fear and love, Exposure. The author will also be appearing at the Emerging Writers’ Festival. I read Samuel Beckett’s Endgame with my boyfriend on the weekend, in anticipation of Waiting for Godot (starring Sir Ian McKellan) next week. We LOVED it (There’s something dripping in my head. [Pause] A heart, a heart in my head). Next on my list are Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, as I may have the opportunity for an interview, and John Fowles’ The Collector (for book group). And festival prep reading for EWF & others soon to be announced. And all the rest

possessedsmallIf you’re anything like me, you will love a book being released in Australia today, The Possessed, by Elif Batuman (Text). It’s a passionate, personalised journey through Russian literature, its authors, and the people who read and write about them. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year – warm, smart, sweet, poignant, even slightly eccentric. Quite captivating, especially if you’re already passionate about literature. I’ll be interviewing the author on the blog soon, too!

3 thoughts on “Provoking, presenting, plays, programs and the possessed

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Provoking, presenting, plays, programs and the possessed – LiteraryMinded -- Topsy.com

  2. Angela, the Miles Franklin criteria *can’t* be loosened. It’s a Trust. The criteria were specified in MF’s Will. For legal reasons, it’s not negotiable…
    If, for example, this year’s judges had awarded the prize to Parrot & Olivier, one of the other shortlisted authors could have challenged it in the courts, and (while draining the Trust Fund of all that’s in it with legal fees) would probably have won because P&O is not about ‘Australian life in all its phases’ and should never have been considered eligible. A disgruntled author with a bad temper could thus destroy the Award altogether.
    I’d like to see the judges pay more attention to fulfilling the terms and the spirit of the award instead of trying to subvert it as they have this year. Miles Franklin was not a wealthy woman and she lived very frugally indeed so that she could leave enough money to set up the award to foster *high quality* *Australian* writing. At the time, publishing was dominated by the Brits, now it’s dominated by the global marketplace. Literary fiction is still a niche needing support while genre fiction does not. The need to encourage high quality writing with an Australian sensibility is just the same, and writers are still bullied into writing for a market which doesn’t appreciate or understand Australian vernacular or settings. (I write here from personal experience – a publisher wanted me to rewrite an entire first chapter omitting all the references to Australia because Americans wouldn’t like it.)
    I believe that we owe it to Miles Franklin to honour her Will as it was intended and that we should pressure the Australian Rich List to dig into their thus far un-philanthropic pockets to set up similar Awards so that we can support a wide variety of Australian writing.
    Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers

  3. Lisa, thanks so much for your wonderful comment. Sorry I’ve taken so long to respond. I wonder if an author would challenge it in the courts if a book won that didn’t quite fit the criteria?

    You raise some valid and interesting points re honouring Miles Franklin’s Will, and celebrating strictly ‘literary’ fiction, as it ‘needs support’. It is important to our culture. And the award does bring attention to literary works with an Australian setting and/or theme. But I do think what constitutes an ‘Australian’ book is quite different than what it would have been in the past. And I think the genre fiction (arguably still literary genre fic) and books with younger protagonists could still be valid.

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