Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 18, 2014

2014 Miles Franklin Shortlist

Oh dear, I missed the bus when it came to announcing the Miles Franklin shortlist this year: it’s been really much too busy at work this week!

Anyway, belated or not, here are the six nominations

*drumroll*

It is a disappointment to me that an author who hasn’t lived here in decades and doesn’t even identify as Australian has a place on this shortlist, and I bet there are plenty of Australian authors of very fine books who agree.  If what I see on GoodReads is correct, All the Birds, Singing wasn’t even first published here, it was first published by Jonathan Cape in London a month before Random House published it here.  Having read Jill Roe’s biography of Miles Franklin,  I don’t think it’s what Miles Franklin had in mind at all.


Responses

  1. Lisa, I might be wrong so please correct me if I am, but I don’t think the Miles Franklin rules specify the nationality of the author, just the subject matter. Since half of Evie Wyld’s book is set in Australia and the main character’s “angst” stems from her life in Australia, it probably meets the the criterion regarding “Australian life in any of its phases”.

    I’m intrigued that you call the book dreary. I wouldn’t call it that – but it certainly isn’t cheery! I thought it was fascinating and pretty tight. I particularly like the clever structure of the book, the way it fans out it two opposing directions from the first chapter.

    • Hi Sue, I haven’t seen the terms of the award in detail either, but her intent was quite clear, Miles Franklin beggared herself in the last years of her life to set up an award to support Australian writers and the Australian publishing industry. IMO, the trustees of her bequest have betrayed her, and so have the judges. IMO Because the author having jettisoned her Australian identity, Wyld is no more eligible than someone from Timbuktu who chooses to set a book in Australia.
      And I do think it is a dreary book. I know you liked it, but it’s sitting there on my bedside table and I can’t muster the enthusiasm to pick it up and go on with it.
      PS I don’t understand why WP sent your comment off for moderation… you’ve been an approved visitor here for years! Very odd!

      • I didn’t even notice it had gone off for moderation! WP seems to do that out of the blue every now and then I’ve noticed. Have no idea whether it’s a planned thing or a conniption. I suspect the latter.

        As for Wyld, I must say I do find it hard to see her as Australian, like MJ Hyland, but in my wishy-washy way I think the less we focus on nationality and the more on humanity the better. So, while I do identify nationality of writers in my tags, I’d rather downplay the whole issue when it comes to definition of who is what. The other is that I don’t think bequests should or can stay static. The world changes and I do think any bequest that goes on for decades and decades should be open to reinterpretation by those entrusted with managing them when it seems appropriate. (And here I’m speaking generally not specifically – more as a philosophy than as a statement about the MF in particular). But I think we’ve discussed this before!

        • LOL indeed we have, because I repeat myself every year. I take a different view of bequests, firstly because it discourages people from setting up awards like this if they think that trustees will ignore their wishes when it suits them, and secondly because the terms of the MF are not past their use-by date. IMO Australian authors and publishers need encouragement as much as ever they did, not just the money but also the acknowledgement. When I read, as I did recently, that Australian novels were dismissed as ‘boring’ my heart aches for all the Aussie authors and publishers who are struggling against the tsunami of imported books that swamp our culture. Surely, as Miles Franklin wanted, we can have one award that’s just for us?

          • Yes, I think we should — I think we disagree in degree rather than absolutes. I wasn’t so much saying that the terms are past their use-by date as that we should be open to the fact that they might be. My understanding is that they haven’t changed the bequest but that from the time it was instigated they have had to interpret/define what “Australian life in any of its phases” means. My sense is that they’ve changed it very little really if you look at what’s been short and long-listed over the years?

            As for Aussie novels dismissed as boring. I hadn’t heard that but it is a very common statement made about Aussie films. The industry keeps hoping Aussies will change their minds and go to our home-grown films. The old cultural cringe eh?

            • Oh good grief, I just wrote a long reply to this and WP ate it up, I should know better than to reply via ‘notifications’, this has happened to me far too often.
              But LOL it’s probably just as well, I’ve ranted enough!

              • LOL … still it’s very irritating when that happens. As for your response, perhaps you could save it for this time next year!

  2. A great shortlist this time I know most of them not read any but aware of them such a great time in Aussie fiction at moment it seems

    • Hi Stu, thanks for dropping by:)

  3. Lisa, I’ll be very interested to hear what you think of ‘All the birds, singing’; I finished it last night and have very mixed feelings (though didn’t find it ‘dreary’). I read both Sue and John’s reviews, but couldn’t muster up their level of enthusiasm. I haven’t any strong feelings about whether it’s ‘Australian’ enough, but is it good enough? (But then, I feel the same way about ‘Narrow Road’…)

    • *Yikes* the pressure, the pressure!
      I keep looking at it and thinking, I don’t like it, and I wouldn’t persist with it if it hadn’t been shortlisted. And then I think, would I read it if I didn’t have this blog and the answer is a definite no.
      And then I think, but my readers are expecting me to, and I owe it to these readers who are so good to me, and encourage me, and give me heart when I am feeling gloomy.
      But then I think, I know I’m not going to like it, so I know I’m not going to write a nice review, and that’s mean to the author.
      And then I think, no, that’s just making excuses, Evie Wyld isn’t going to give a hoot what some obscure blogger in Australia thinks.
      LOL I think you can tell that I am conflicted about this!

      • Lisa, I’m glad I’m not the only one who has these crazy thoughts, and I don’t even have a well-read blog so I have even less reason to have them! Don’t bother reading it, you have so many more books to get through. Maybe you should get someone to guest review it!

        • Are you offering? I’d love it if you would!

          • I have exactly the same problems as you, compounded by not knowing how to review a book, so I’m afraid not!

  4. Lisa: just to throw another opinion in here–I abandoned All the Birds Singing after the Kangaroo bashing.

    • Ugh! But apparently that’s not all that’s yukky. Of course sometimes violence and unpleasant matters belong in a novel, I’m no Pollyanna as I’m sure you know. A lot depends on how it’s handled, and whether it’s gratuitous or not. But some authors revel in it… I remember abandoning Delia Falconer’s Lost Thoughts of Soldiers because it had such a reductive view of what men think about and it was so unpleasant to read.

      • It was just one of many incidents involving animals, and I pass over books that include those elements–gratuitous or not. As you say, just so unpleasant to read.

  5. Thanks for the update!

  6. I agree with you on the nationality point, Lisa. I was surprised Wyld was longlisted for that reason … she was one of recent list of top 40 British novelists under 40, so how she can be (still) Australian is anyone’s guess, but I still liked it(!). I don’t think it has any chance of winning though, with Wright and Flanagan’s obvious front-running. But don’t persist on my account! :)

    • Yes, I think that Flanagan and Wright are the front-runners, and I am torn between them, Flanagan because he speaks to the heart – and not just my heart, but the nation’s heart – and Wright because the book is excitingly innovative, and I think experimental forms should be rewarded. If I were on the panel, I’d be trying to persuade the others to do a joint award this year.

  7. It looks to be a very strong shortlist. I’ve never read Tim Winton (oh, the shame!) but I’ve had my eye on Eyrie for a while. And I’ve heard great things about the Flanagan, too.

    • Hi Jacquie, good to hear from you, I’ve been enjoying your posts on your new blog:)
      As I’ve said above, I haven’t yet read Eyrie, but people say it’s not his best. So maybe it would be better to start with the much-loved Cloudstreet?

      • Thanks, Lisa. Oh, that’s useful to know – I shall add Cloudstreet to the list :)
        Looking forward to reading your review of Eyrie, once you have a chance to get to it.


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