Last Tuesday the Children’s Book Council of Australia announced the short list for their Books of the Year Awards. I’ve only read one of the titles (Ursula Dubosarsky and Andrew Joyner’s lovely The Terrible Plop), but I applauded a couple of inclusions in their Notables Books list that didn’t get shortlisted (mainly Cassandra Golds’s The Museum of Mary Child and the latest of Jackie French and Peter Sheehan’s Australian history titles, Weevils, War and Wallabies: 1920–1945).
Today I turned up at the Mint in Macquarie Street for the announcement of the short list for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, hoping I’d have read more of the books and be able to applaud more of the nominees. I was also looking forward to clapping eyes on our newish premier in person. I did see the premier, but it turns out I haven’t read many of the books. It was a pleasant event all the same.
The short lists are already up on the PLA website, and the announcement was being tweeted by my friend misrule and the person next to her (who is paid to tweet), so I’m not exactly breaking news here.
Kristina Keneally was taller than I expected, and not so different in person from her on-screen appearance: poised, slightly awkward, with a sweet smile and a lively manner. She announced the short list with a PowerPoint presentation, which I’ve just realised is a way of making a personal appearance approximate to television. There was none of Frank Sartor’s teasing of authors for being too shy to put their hands up – that may have been embarrassing, even painful, but it was personal. None of Nathan Rees fanboy enthusiasm about ‘talking to David [Malouf]’ or phoning Christos Tsiolkas. No devil-may-care quoting from Stalin, in the Carr tradition. CK made jokes (‘bribing the judges is not allowed’) and personal comments about not being the most literate person in the Keneally family (her uncle by marriage is Tom Keneally), but it was all from the script. It was a good script, mind you, and included an honorable mention of Patricia Wrightson. The one moment of clear humanity was when Kristina stumbled over Justine Larbalestier’s surname, and apologised to Justine (who I believe is in New York just now). We all sat in the Mint theatrette and applauded quietly at the end – the shortlisted authors didn’t get to stand and be recognised, there was no partisan applause for individuals.
The food was good, and the mood was light and friendly.
The short list itself?
I haven’t read any of the books on the Patricia Wrightson (for children’s literature), Ethel Turner (for young people’s literature), Douglas Stewart (for non-fiction), Glenda Adams (for new writing), Kenneth Slessor (for poetry) or Literary Scholarship (no famous name yet attached) prizes, though there are books on all those lists I’d love to read, and some are already on my shelves waiting for their time to come.
The Script Writing Award list is stunning. I’ve seen four of the six. Misrule took a break from tweeting to tell me Tangle is on Foxtel and that I’d hate it. I missed Fairweather Man, but it sounds great. I haven’t blogged about East West 101, but I love it. I’ve added links to my offhand blogged remarks on the others:
Jane Campion, Bright Star
Kristen Dunphy and Michael Miller, East West 101: Episode 13
Adam Elliot, Mary and Max
Fiona Seres, Tangle: Episode 1, Yellow Amendments
Aviva Ziegler and Veronica Fury, Fairweather Man
Warwick Thornton, Samson and Delilah (also here)
Of the two works listed for the Community Relations Commission Award, I’ve read and loved the first, and look longingly at the second:
Dr Abbas El Zein – Leave to Remain: A Memoir
Dr Tim Soutphommasane – Reclaiming Patriotism: Nation-Building for Australian Progressives
I’d done OK on the Christina Stead Prize too, with three books read, two on the to-be-read list and strong opinions on all five:
Now I’m wondering if I can manage to read Cate Kennedy’s, David Malouf’s and Steven Lang’s books in time to cast a vote in the People’s Choice Award.