I got my invitation in the mail the other day to the Miles Franklin Award presentation dinner thingy. When I say 'invitation' what I mean is that I was being invited to pay them $90. This is actually not a ripoff as the one I went to in 2004 was a truly excellent affair in the way of food, wine and guest speaker: Cate Blanchett on Australian women artists, and I'm here to tell you the woman has a lovely brain as well as looking like, well, that -- lit up from inside by some magical, milk-white candle -- and she made a really excellent speech before going home early to breast-feed. Watching her deep in conversation with David Marr was quite an experience.
If I were in Sydney or if the dinner were being held here I would probably stump up and trot along, as prize nights always provide an excellent anthropological study. Watching the behaviour of shortlisted writers -- and their partners; sometimes especially their partners -- is cruel but highly entertaining. It's not the 90 bucks I mind so much as the plane fare halfway across the country.
And if I were a betting woman I'd be in a bit of a state; Kate Grenville has to be the favourite, but without going too much into who thinks what about whom, I can picture some strong resistance from at least one of the judges. To my shame I've not yet read all the shortlisted books so can't give a personal favourite, but if Grenville doesn't get it then it could be Brian Castro's year.