Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's that time of year again

Over at Matilda, Perry Middlemiss has compiled a list of eligible and likely contenders for this year's Miles Franklin Literary Award. The longlist will be announced tomorrow. The shortlist is usually announced in late April and the winner some time in June.

Emboldened by past successes, I'm going to have another go and predict a longlist, a shortlist and a winner. Please note that these are not necessarily my picks -- I've read fewer than half of these books -- but rather my very early predictions based on what I know, think, feel or guess about the books, the writers, the judges, the prize and the general tenor of the times.

Naturally, I reserve the right to change my mind.

I think that there will be a longlist of between ten and twelve, chosen from among the following novels:

The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide
The Pages by Murray Bail
His Illegal Self by Peter Carey
The Biographer by Virginia Duigan
Wanting by Richard Flanagan
The Spare Room by Helen Garner
The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
Addition by Toni Jordan
The Good Parents by Joan London
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Breath by Tim Winton

I predict a shortlist of six:

The Pages
The Spare Room
The Lieutenant
The Good Parents
A Fraction of the Whole

(with the possible, but unlikely, substitution of The Slap for The Lieutenant

And a winner:

Joan London's The Good Parents


genevieve said...

Based on hits on my blog review alone, I will be quite flabbergasted if they don't include Teh Slap in the longlist.
MUST read The Pages. What a lot of 'the's.
And yes, you should be quite emboldened, I'd lay a bet on your recommendation if one was available.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh yes, it's obviously very popular and has struck a chord, and I'm sure there are many of us who would rate it highly. But none of those things necessarily translates into a Miles F win. As I say, going on what I know and think about the various aspects of the prize and the prizegiving, I think it will make the longlist but not the shortlist.

NB -- don't bet yet! Wait till the shortlist comes out, at least ...

Bernice said...

Gee, you're game. I'm leaning toward either The Slap or Fraction of the Whole. Though Garner's travelling with light weights in the saddle. Grenville's drawn an outside barrier, Flanagan's a poor starter, Bail's done well over this distance before but I'm not sure he's as well-conditioned as he should be this season.
Adelaide hasn't run on a track this light before, and Carey's been rumoured to have fetlock problems. Jordan is a new entry to this year's Derby calendar.Winton has won at this level before, and if public sentiment means anything, he will certainly be a favourite with the punters.

London could be the breakaway.But it's a close field. I'll send you a bottle of a fine local riesling in late June if you've called this far out.

klaus k said...

She Hawke's Depot Girl will be on the longlist.

Pavlov's Cat said...

You speak with the confidence of an insider there, Klaus K. Care to elaborate?

Ampersand Duck said...

I'm interested in why you think London will win. I liked The Good Parents, but I don't think it was as good as Gilgamesh, and I think some of the others (I've only read a few) will give it a good run for the money... or is this more a guess at the Judging than the Writing?

PS you should cross-post this at Sars lite.

klaus k said...

I only have it second- (or third-) hand from anybody who would know for certain, but there is confidence among those who know Shé (of which I am one, though haven't seen her for a while).

Anonymous said...

And I can't resist the challenge. My proposed longlist, shortlist and winner are here:

Perry Middlemiss

Pavlov's Cat said...

Perry's link is here.

KK -- thanks -- I don't know that book at all. My contemporary Aust Lit reading gets more patchy every year -- the 4 novels a week for the SMH mean my fiction reading is almost exclusively purpose-driven.

A-Duck -- yep, I can't stress strongly enough that these are the lists/winner(s) that I think will get up, not (necessarily) what I would choose myself -- as I say, I've only read fewer than half of them so far! Predictions are being made here on the basis of a combination of factors. I don't want to say too much about why, or say it too publicly, also for a number of reasons, none of them sinister and most of them to do more with propriety than anything else.

Thanks for doing all that lovely work on Sars Lite. What I might do there soon is write a post on the whole literary prize judging experience thingy.

Pavlov's Cat said...

KK, an afterthought -- I'm pretty sure that people on the longlist aren't notified beforehand, unless one of the judges leaked, in which case that's something that the administrators need to be told about sharpish. I happened to be in the company of Peter Rose a couple of years ago when he found out his A Case of Knives had been longlisted, and he was, with endearing modesty, extremely surprised.

Fine said...

PC, I wanted to ask you what the factors are that lead to winning a Miles Franklin, but that might be a bit indiscreet. I've read 'The Slap' and 'The Spare Room', both which I really liked. I tried 'Fraction of the Whole' but sadly didn't get too far. I kept thinking it needed a really good edit.

Anonymous said...

I was notified of the DEPOT GIRL possibility as well, and with a bit of checking found that it had been "nominated" - in other words, submitted by the publisher. "Nominated" and "submitted" are at very different levels in regard to the MF Award.

I haven't seen it but the publisher, Picaro Press, is the same one who released JACK by Judy Johnson a few years back. That volume of poetry went on to win the Victorian Premier's Literary Award (the C.J. Dennis prize) in 2007.

Thanks for fixing the link - I'm never too sure how it works on other blogging software.

Perry Middlemiss

Pavlov's Cat said...

Perry, thanks for the info about Depot Girl. You're quite right, 'nominated' is meaningless in the context of the Miles F: the onus is on the publisher to submit their novels for the prize and of course publishers are going to do that with any eligible novel even if it's just out of self-interest. Any publisher who failed to submit one of their author's novels for any major prize for which it was eligible would be seriously at fault, but any smart writer will make sure they don't forget.

Fine, it's really simple, and it's no different from any other bunch of people getting together to make a decision about something: the determining factors are (a) the degree of experience and expertise that people bring to the table, plus (b) what they do with that experience and expertise when they interact. That's true whether you've got two judges making their genre choices for the Age Book of the Year or sixteen people round a table deciding who's going to get Literature Board grants (NB I have no idea how the latter gets done these days though).

In the case of the Miles Franklin and other literary prizes there is of course a third factor: general agreement that it's a good book. Lots of people who've written a good novel never win a prize with it. But very few people win prizes with bad novels.

A lot of writers want to think there's a magic bullet or a secret code or a conspiracy or something, presumably so they can tell themselves that that's why they didn't win. But I have never once seen such a thing. I've seen flamewars and meltdowns, but I've never seen any cover-ups. (Literary types can't keep a secret to save themselves, apart from anything else.) On the contrary, I've seen writers who loathe each other IRL honorably going to bat for each other in discussions about prizes and grants.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Here you go.

klaus k said...

I doubt there's anything inappropriate going on, so I've got to assume that there is some other reason for the confidence. Perhaps it's simply a mistaken impression or the effects of hearsay? At any rate, Depot Girl certainly belongs on the longlist, if the excerpts I've read are representative.

Pavlov's Cat said...

KK, the source (Perry may have come to the same conclusion) seems to be the literary magazine Kurungabaa, which is saying the book was 'nominated'. But unless they have changed the way they do things, and the website indicates that they haven't, then someone somewhere has definitely got hold of the wrong end of some stick or other. We'll soon know, either way. IIRC the announcements are usually made in the early afternoon. Mind you, not even the ABC can be counted on any more to regard the country's most coveted literary award as 'news', so who knows how we'll actually find out?