The Miles Franklin announcement is not far away. This award is arguably the most important on the Australian literary scene. In his Brief Take on the Australian Novel, Jean François-Vernay structures his approach by borrowing from another popular art form: film. Here we have his ‘Low-angle shot of the Miles Franklin Award’.
In line with the wishes of Stella Franklin, who bequeathed almost all of her estate estimated at £8,996 to establish this literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award must give preference to a published work ‘of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian Life in any of its phases’. Founded in 1957, the award has ever since crowned 58 novels with glory and increased their sales.
As is the case with any respected prize, the Miles Franklin has had its share of controversies. In 1994, the jurors unleashed a debate by excluding Frank Moorhouse’s novel Grand Days (1993) from the competition, claiming that its Australian content was practically insignificant. The story traces the career of a young Australian woman who, after the Great War, works for the United Nations in Geneva. In 1995, the committee tried to make amends by celebrating The Hand That Signed the Paper by Helen Demidenko, but it later transpired that the author was a Ukrainian-impersonating plagiarist. After this scandal, the jury decided to play it safe in 1996 with Highways to a War by Christopher Koch. Pocketing the prize money, Koch started another controversy when he revealed his uncharitable thoughts about academia.
Today, some people think it is high time the overly restrictive selection criteria of this award should be revised in order to take into account novels whose characters, settings, themes and plots are located outside Australia. The list of recipients of the Miles Franklin is also widely criticised for comprising chiefly middleaged novelists, few of whom are women (approximately one third of all prize-winners), let alone Aboriginal (Kim Scott and Alexis Wright being the exceptions). There is a sneaking suspicion that the judging panel might almost be guilty of ageism, sexism and racism. Despite the criticism, this national and nationalistic prize is still regarded as a reliable benchmark for identifying great Australian novels. The winner in 2010, Peter Temple’s Truth, indicated that popular genres like crime novels are now taken seriously.
For more close-ups, panoramic views and special features on the Australian novel, see here.
Margaret Merrilees can add another feather to her cap*. Her debut novel The First Week has been shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award, a very cool award that celebrates work that depicts ‘women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society’.
One of the judges, Dorothy Johnston, has written about the judging process here, and pointed out that:
Another interesting point to note is that, out of seven shortlisted titles, four were published by small (or small to medium-sized) publishers, although by far the greatest number of entries were submitted by the ‘big names’ – Penguin, Random House, Allen & Unwin and so on.
Tiny but mighty, over here. And we couldn’t be prouder.
*Is that the right saying? What does it even mean?
Let the awards for Nature’s Line begin.
We’re incredibly proud of this book, and the mammoth amount of work, love and dedication put into by Janis.
We’re definitely expecting more from where this came from. Congratulations Janis!
Am I repeating myself? Because they’re ace. We’ve always known it, but it’s nice when they get the recognition they deserve, as is happening at the moment —
Hard on the heels of Margaret Merrilees’s shortlisting for the Glenda Adams Prize for New Writing, we now have not one but two longlistings from the Nita B. Kibble Awards as well!
The first is Rachel Hennessy, whose novel The Heaven I Swallowed was runner-up for the Australian/Vogel award before it was even published. Now it has been longlisted for the Kibble Literary Award for an established Australian female author. This is a HUGE deal, but then again The Heaven I Swallowed deserves every word of praise it gets.
The second is Margaret again! The First Week has now been longlisted for the Dobbie Literary Award, awarded each year for a first published work from an Australian woman writer.
These are two powerful books, written by two of the most talented authors working in Australia today. Today, us Wakefieldians are feeling pretty bloody proud.
(Also a bit sick. Celebratory Easter chocolate is getting out of hand over here. Is it wine time yet? HAPPY EASTER, KIDS!!)
Guess who has just been shortlisted for the Glenda Adams Prize for New Fiction?
CONGRATULATIONS MARGARET! Not that anyone here at Wakefield HQ is surprised. The First Week is gripping, beautifully written, and stays with you for a long time after you’ve finished reading. Click here to read an extract.
Or, to be more precise, our authors.
Latest evidence can be found here. Yeah, that’s just John Neylon basking in the glow of his Scarlett Award for critical writing. They say that the proof is in the Fiona Hall essay (that’s the saying, right?) but if you need more evidence, try this, or this, or this. Or this.
(Don’t mean to brag but – goddamn, we got some talented authors and some fine looking books.)