Two writers. Two excellent, contrasting, collections of short fiction both, in their way, exposing the simple truths and glorious complexities of everyday of life.
First Helen Garner, one of Australia’s most under-stated yet wise and clear-sighted writers has consistently held up an unwavering mirror up to the country through more 13 books (including forensic studies of two highly publicised court cases), two plays and numerous magazine articles. Stories ( Text Publishing) a collection of fiction, some of which dates back more than 20 years, has been released to coincide with her 75th birthday. It showcases her meticulous, pared back, observations on the magical and the mundane. She has a glorious ear for the vernacular so mesmerising you can hear the conversations in your head as you read. Postcards from Surfers will resonate with anyone who has tried to bridge the gap between childhood holidays and the present. Stories is a partner to a volume of her non-fiction work.
Despite the doomsayers, I am a giddy optimist about the future of good writing: books, short stories, poetry, and essays. Most times, it is enough to just feel things are going to be ok. But there are also those welcome tangible incidents of reassurance. John Freeman is the highly respected former president of the National Book Critics Circle, editor of Granta until 2013 and regular contributor of stories and reviews to major publications.
Elizabeth Harrower emerged from the lift smiling and looking slightly photobemused. Petite, with a helmet of well-cut grey hair, still nimble at 87, she later admitted this was the first time she had appeared as special guest at a public function.
Some of the finest writing this year is showcased in the shortlist for the Kibble Literary Award for established authors and the Dobbie Literary Award for a debut published author, both just announced. The shortlisted authors for the Dobbie, which carries a $30,000 prize are: Sophie Cunningham for Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy (Text Publishing), Helen Garner, This House of Grief (Text Publishing) and Joan London (left), The Golden Age (Vintage Australia). The shortlist for the Dobbie Literary Award which has a $5,000 prize are Emily Bitto The Strays (Affirm Press); Ellen van Neerven (right) for Heat and Light (University of Queensland Press) and Christine Piper After Darkness (Allen & Unwin).
Women writers dominate the short list for the Miles Franklin, one of Australia’s most prestigious awards which was announced tonight. Only one man, Craig Sherborne, who wrote Tree Palace, made it through. The short list for the $60,000 prize which celebrates “Australian life in all its glories” is:
- Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett, Penguin.
- The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna, Allen & Unwin (reviewed here).
- The Golden Age by Joan London, Random House.
- After Darkness by Christine Piper, Allen & Unwin.
- Tree Palace by Craig Sherborne Text Publishing.
The judges’ spokesman, Richard Neville, said the shortlisted novels had “a rich cast of unforgettable characters, and themes ranging from childhood
Don Watson’s The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia has taken out the overall Book of the Year award in the Australian New South Wales Premier’s Awards announced tonight as part of the Sydney Writers Festival. Watson who was a speechwriter for the former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, also won the prize for non-fiction. Other winners were Mark Henshaw whose The Snow Kimono won the fiction prize and David Malouf who won the prize for poetry with Earth Hour.
Playwright David Williamson received a special award recognising him as Australia’s “greatest playwright with a prodigious output of more than 40 plays that have shaped how we view ourselves”. He announced he would donate his $10,000 prize to the Sydney’s Ensemble Theatre.
Full list of winners:
Australian literary heavyweights Joan London, Liane Moriarty, Peter Carey and Helen Garner are all included in the shortlists for the 2015 Australian Book Industry Association awards announced today. There are 11 categories this year including two new ones specifically targeting small publishers.
The full list is:
Eight women have made the long list for the long list of the Miles Franklin Award for $60,000 prize for Australian Literature won last year by Evie Wyld’s evocative All the Birds, Singing. The shortlist will be announced on 18 May with the eventual winner named on 23 June. The…
Joan London’s poignant The Golden Age and The House of Grief, Helen Gardner’s harrowing reportage of a crime that shocked the world, are standouts on the longlist for Australia’s prestigious $50,000 Stella Prize, which celebrates women authors, and which was announced yesterday. The longlist for the Prize, which was first awarded in 2013, also includes three debut writers.
Full long list is:
Aaliya lives alone in the second-floor apartment in a none too salubrious part of Beirut and contemplates the gaudy transformation of her city and the imminent arrival of old age with its growing catalogue of “accepted defeats”. She had been subjected to relentless pressure, and occasional threats, by her family after her (impotent, not that they knew that) husband had moved on leaving her with the social disgrace of divorce. No, she dug in. This was her home. And she needs the space for her enduring companions, her books.
“Books everywhere, stacks and stacks, shelves and bookcases, stacks atop each shelf … how many hours have I moved around this room, from nook to nook, making sure that everything is in its proper place, every book in its proper pile, every dust mote annihilated?” It is in their pages that she finds companionship, conversation and an often dryly-witty observation of the vagaries of life in a constantly changing Beirut. As