So, after I rudely bullied Jess into writing the first post on this blog I abandoned it to cyberwasteland for almost a year, but now I am determined to be back! (What else do I have to do I hear you say...) Anyway, in a mission to actually to some reading and thinking this year as opposed to lounging about and remarking of the strange proclivities of the Germans I hereby declare this blog open! (again. Hi Jess!). Stay tuned.
Murray Bail, Richard Flanagan, Louis Nowra, Christos Tsiolkas, Tim Winton. There is only one I would even consider inviting to a dinner party (and it's certainly not the Christian with the ponytail). These are the authors who have made the shortlist for this year's Miles Franklin award, and that's the woman herself, on the left.
Jason Steger reported the announcement in The Age today without even a passing reference to the exclusive maleness of the shortlist. He did, however, point out that the nominations give Winton a chance to win for the forth time, Bail a chance at his second MF award and that Flanagan has been shortlisted three times before. Are we really so bereft of new literary talent that it all becomes so predictable and boring?
Murray Bail's nominated The Pages is so filled with unchallenged fear and loathing for women I threw it against the wall while reading. Tsiolkas' The Slap failed to engage me with its suburban Dads having a morning wank and lusting after blonde vets and I gave up at around page 20 (a friend later described it to me as 'Neighbours with wogs' which is, I guess, pretty noice, different, unusual but doesn't have me racing back for the remaining 300 or so). And I've been burned by Flanagan, Nowra and Winton too badly before to ever again risk the $35+ on one of those hardbacks with the arty-nature covers.
It strikes me as deeply odd and sad that we don't have more to reward in Australian fiction than these five established and (apart from Tsiolkas on past performance merits) rather staid male writers. What are the politics and prejudices at work here? If So You Think You Can Dance? thinks it's important to keep the gender ratio balanced among its contenders, why shouldn't our major literary prize? I'd like to see the ponytailed one, the misogynist one and the anti-social Tasmanian one dance for their lives please...