Thursday, April 27, 2006

Miles Franklin update

The shortlist as just announced is exactly the same as the one I hypothesised below, earlier today.

Nobody's gonna believe I didn't know. But as one of the judges who bailed a couple of years ago under interesting circumstances, I'm one of the last people likely to have been in the loop.

The three big names were predictable enough. There's a huge buzz around Carrie Tiffany because of her recent nomination for the Orange Prize, and Brenda Walker's work has been consistently excellent (and consistently undervalued) since she first began publishing fiction.

But I'm still a bit startled.

Miles Franklin shortlist due today

Here at high noon precisely, I can't find any online sign so far that the Miles Franklin shortlist has been announced yet, but it's expected before the end of the day. The length of the shortlist varies from year to year, but for what it's worth here's my prediction of what will survive from the longlist (see March 19 post) onto the shortlist. NB these are not necessarily personal favourites, just the things I think will make it:

Brian Castro, The Garden Book
Kate Grenville, The Secret River
Roger McDonald, The Ballad of Desmond Kale
Carrie Tiffany, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living
Brenda Walker, The Wing of Night

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Volcano

One item in the big pile of work I've just finished (hence no blogging for while now) is the review of a new novel by Venero Armanno, Candle Life. That's still under embargo, but while I'm thinking about it let me recommend his last novel, The Volcano, to anyone who hasn't read it. This book seemed to get the critical response it deserved only in Armanno's home state of Queensland, where it won the Premier's Prize in its year.

All of the major literary prizes have different chronological catchment areas so it's not easy to work out which would have been eligible for what in which year, but if my calculations are correct, The Volcano would have been up against some stiff competition for the 2002 Miles Franklin award -- Richard Flanagan's Gould's Book of Fish, Joan London's Gilgamesh and the winner, Tim Winton's Dirt Music, among others.

But I'm still very surprised that it didn't even make the shortlist. It deserves higher status as a contemporary classic: a rich, broad, deep, impassioned, rumbustious novel with overtones and undertones of magic realism firmly anchored (sorry, mixed metaphor, pah) in social and world history, with a wonderful cast of characters and a hero both lovable and memorable.