Anna Funder on her Miles Franklin win and the power of fiction

Anna Funder’s acceptance speech, delivered by video, on winning the Miles Franklin award for All That I Am has received a lot of coverage of varying degrees, thanks in part to her sideswipe at Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s cancellation of the state’s literary awards. She says,

Prizes like this one are important to writers, but they are not necessary: we would keep writing without them, as writers do in many countries where they are banned. But prizes are very important to the nation. They show that free speech is alive and unbeholden to government, or to media barons. And they provide signposts as to quality when it can be hard, in a bewildering topography of culture—high and low, in print and on-screen and in the fractured online world—to sort the enlightening and soul-feeding from the 50 Shades of momentarily gratifying.

Hear, hear.

You can read the full transcript here.

Meanwhile, Newman continues his bull-in-a-china-shop approach to Queensland’s social fabric, trying it appease the religious fanatics and arch neanderthals typified by Bob Katter’s turn-back-the-clock party while holding some thread of decency. The changes to the same-sex marriage laws and surrogacy laws he’s enacted are ludicrous and insulting and worthy of derison, the semantic game being played highlighting Funder’s point about the importance of literacy in a free-thinking society. A ‘registered relationship’ has overtones of vileness; the ACL need to understand their definition of marriage is neither exclusive nor universal, nor even accurate, nor even logical. A vocal minority should not be dictating government policy that has absolutely no impact on their quality of life. Newman has been praised for standing up to vocal minorities in the past; what a shame he didn’t have the fortitude to do the same here.

Neither logic nor compassion seem to have much of a home in Queensland these days. Maybe those wielding the stupid stick need to read more, and read more widely. As Funder says,

This fusing of mind and soul with strangers is what fiction, the art form that is most personal, most interior permits us. Fiction helps us understand what it might be like to be another. It makes us understand that we are different. And also, that we are the same.

Meanwhile, the non-government supported Queensland Literary Awards have secured some funding from CAL and UQP and will be held on September 5.

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Food for thought: Ursula K Le Guin on the book and the reader, plus, the missing ingredient in the Hunger Games movie

Ursula K Le Guin offers this about the ‘death’ of the book:

There certainly is something sick about the book industry, but it seems closely related to the sickness affecting every industry that, under pressure from a corporate owner, dumps product standards and long-range planning in favor of ‘predictable’ sales and short-term profits

Uh-huh. In the Book View Cafe piece, she goes on to talk about the differentiation between books and reading, and the definition of books. Plenty to applaud.

  • And there’s this interesting thought about the structure of writing in the face of technology, specifically the amount of a Kindle book revealed in an Amazon sample. Leave’em on a cliff-hanger, seems to the be the idea. The potential for narrative convolutions is immense. I can’t help feeling that if you’ve read 10 per cent of a book and you still don’t know whether you want to read it or not, the book’s in trouble. But then, I like the slow burn; you don’t have to hook me with a big bang or a plot twist if your voice is on the money.
  • Yay: this analysis of the Hunger Games movie helps explain why I came away feeling I’d been served a snack instead of a meal. Seems there’s a whole layer of social snark that got discarded, as well as the fact that I might’ve misread who was playing games of the heart. All the more reason to read the book, methinks.
  • And in case you missed it: the long list of the Miles Franklin. Lots of memories of the war, family secrets, a little bit of inner city, a touch of paddock, some foreign climes, the way we were and what happens next. That’s all very well, but at this time of the week, I’m thinking Sean Williams in power armour* wins hands down!
  • * See this interview for the background to Sean’s powering up!

    Some speculation about the Miles Franklin award aka ‘this is Australia’

    good daughter by honey brown

    The longlist for this year’s Miles Franklin award has been announced, and there’s Honey Brown on the list. Brown won the Aurealis Award for best horror novel a couple of years back with Red Queen, and last year, Miles Franklin winner Andrew McGahan took the gong for best science fiction novel. I wonder how many others have managed to likewise span the annoying, unnecessary genre gulf?

    Last year’s Miles Franklin caused some forelock tugging when it went to a crime novel, Peter Temple’s Truth. This year, it seems, the forelocks will be safe. Here’s the longlist, with an annotated description based on the blurbs:

  • Rocks in the Belly (Jon Bauer, Scribe): a family power play told from the POV of both a child and the man he becomes.
  • The Good Daughter (Honey Brown, Penguin): a mysterious disappearance in small country town, Australia.
  • The Mary Smokes Boys (Patrick Holland, Transit Lounge Publishing): small country town threatened by progress as a young man worries about his sister’s future.
  • The Piper’s Son (Melina Marchetta, Penguin): a sequel to Saving Francesca, all about family and friends and disappointment.
  • When Colts Ran (Roger McDonald, Random House): slice of life among the blokes of a, ahem, small country town.
  • Time’s Long Ruin (Stephen Orr, Wakefield Press): based loosely on the disappearance of the Beaumont children from Glenelg beach.
  • That Deadman Dance (Kim Scott, Pan Macmillan): culture clash in colonial WA.
  • The Legacy (Kirsten Tranter, HarperCollins): a woman disappears in the dust cloud of New York City’s 9/11, causing secrets to be uncovered.
  • Bereft (Chris Womersley, Scribe): family secrets and strife in smalltown NSW in the aftermath of the Great War.

    The shortlist will be announced on April 19, with the winner announced on June 22.

  • Gaiman on story, Aussie fantasy on the hit list

    A quick post from the wonderful Guardian, still one of my favourite book sites, in which Neil Gaiman weighs in anew on the Lit/Genre divide, and a commentator finds much to recommend in eastern fantasy, Aussie style, thanks to Lian Hearn and Alison Goodman. Great stuff on a cool day.

    In other bookish news, a crime novel has won the Miles Franklin, and the Ditmar awards are now open for submissions.