Thursday, April 22, 2010


Whoa, sorry about accidental posting, all whose feeds picked up what was actually a first draft of some opening remarks of a long post about the Miles Franklin and why I think there's this constant fussing about the bloody thing. (Miles F. herself, of course, would just love the constant fussing and be extremely sardonic about it.)

So pay that false start no mind, please. Fellow-users of Blogger will know that the SAVE NOW button is right next to the PUBLISH POST button, and so far this morning I'm not sufficiently caffeinated to tell the difference.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Miles Franklin shortlist

Clearly I have lost my Miles mojo.

Contrary to my prediction here the other day, the shortlist does indeed again contain six books (the length has varied over the last decade or so, usually from four to six), rather than my predicted five. I only picked two and a half of the six: Brian Castro's The Bath Fugues, Sonya Hartnett's Butterfly, and a two-way punt on Alex Miller's Lovesong. And my predicted winner, David Foster's Sons of the Rumour, hasn't even made the shortlist.

I'm glad to see Truth there. As I said, the five I picked were not necessarily my personal favourites -- they were predictions rather than choices.

The list:

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

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another year, another Miles Franklin shortlist prediction from Mystic Mog as was

The Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist, according to the official website, is due to be announced on April 21. Having had some success in the past, though way off base last year, I feel emboldened to have a go at predicting the shortlist and winner again this year.

These are not necessarily my own picks, just what I think might get up, on what I think will be the standard shortlist of five: Brian Castro's The Bath Fugues, David Foster's Sons of the Rumour and Glenda Guest's Siddon Rock plus two of the following: Sonya Hartnett's Butterfly, Alex Miller's Lovesong and Tom Keneally's The People's Train. I don't expect Peter Carey to make the cut and I'm guessing Alex Miller might not either, but I'm not as much of a Miller fan as most people so I might be off base there.

Foster the incomparable to win.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature

My longtime Australian Lit colleague and recently acquired FaceBook Friend Susan Lever has suggested I link to the Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, published by the National Library of Australia: it's here. You have to register, but you don't have to pay. [UPDATE: no, apparently you don't even have to register to read it!] There are full archives and an excellent, detailed search function.

The Association for the Study of Australian Literature was formed in the late 1970s and an extraordinarily successful venture it has been and remains; for some of us the ASAL conference was and is the highlight of the academic year and I think many people felt as I did that ASAL, rather than their own university department, was their real -- or at least their main -- intellectual community.

It was also, usually, a riot, though these days it seems more seemly. I have particularly fond memories of Townsville 1986, when Prof (well, he is now) Ken Gelder won the Parody Competition with a masterly mashup of classic texts, conference papers and conference conditions, notably the so-called unisex toilets and the conflation in one paper of the work of Catherine Helen Spence and Karl Marx, thenceforth referred to as Marx and Spence.

JASAL was set up by a small group of dedicated ASAL members after it became clear that the opportunities for publishing scholarly work in Australian literary studies were getting thinner and thinner on the ground. The current issue is a tribute to poet Vincent Buckley and includes articles by his friends and fellow-poets Chris Wallace-Crabbe and Jennifer Strauss, plus reminiscences and scholarly articles by friends, former colleagues, former students and specialists in Australian poetry.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Glenda Guest and Siddon Rock

What's she doing writing a blog post about a book she hasn't read, you ask. Well, for one thing I'm waking this blog out of its five-month coma to try yet again to get some order into my thoughts on the topic I know better than any other, that of Australian writing -- though the idea of 'Australian writing' gets more and more problematic as the intertubes kick internationalism along. (On the other hand, I did hear some very nasty, and stupid, nationalist stuff coming out of Central Europe on the radio yesterday so there is obviously resistance to the inevitable.)

Anyway, I'm trying a trick that's often successfully used by bloggers who want to kick-(re-)start their sites and that's to vow to post something -- anything, no matter how brief or glancing -- every day. There's something about the discipline of this that I really like; blogging is not so far away from meditation. And staying in regular touch with developments in my own main skill set can't possibly be a bad idea.

What's inspired me to start today, though, is the news this morning that first-time novelist Glenda Guest has won the Best First Book prize in the Commonwealth Literary Awards for her novel Siddon Rock.

There'd been a bit of a subdued buzz about this book, and Guest herself, after the novel was shortlisted, and I expect her and it to get more publicity in the wake of the win. What with her success there and the brief synopsis I've just read at the website of her publishers, Random House, I'm now curious and enthusiastic enough to seek it out and make the time to read it:
When Macha Connor came home from the war she walked into town as naked as the day she was born, except for well-worn and shining boots, a dusty slouch hat, and the .303 rifle she held across her waist.

Macha patrols Siddon Rock by night, watching over the town’s inhabitants: Brigid, Granna, and all of the Aberline clan; Alistair in Meakin's Haberdashery, with his fine sense of style; Sybil, scrubbing away at the bloodstains in her father's butcher shop; Reverend Siggy, afraid of the outback landscape and the district’s magical saltpans; silent Nell with her wild dogs; publican Marg, always accompanied by a cloud of blue; and the new barman, Kelpie Crush.
It is only when refugee Catalin Morgenstern and her young son Josis arrive in town that Macha realises there is nothing she can do to keep the townspeople safe.

On hearing of her success, Guest told the Guardian that she was 'standing here like a stunned mullet', an epithet that no doubt left English punters bemused at the strange ways of colonials. 'It's not about the money,' she said, 'it's not about the credit, it's about being given verification that this is any good, that I can actually write."