Monthly Archives: March 2019

NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlist 2019

The 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards were announced this week. The State Library of NSW has the full list on its website, but you have to do a lot of clicking back back and forth to read it. Lisa at ANZ LitLovers has listed most of the categories in easily readable form – just click here.

I haven’t read any of the books shortlisted for the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction or the UTS Glenda Adams Prize for New Writing, though more than one are on my TBR list. None of the contenders for the NSW Premier’s Prize for Translation show up when I search my blog for their names.

I’ve done marginally better on the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction. I’ve read Tracker by Alexis Wright (my review here) and I’ve listened to most of an audio book of Saga Land by Richard Fidler & Kári Gíslason (review to come when I listen to the rest of it).

Of the Multicultural NSW Award, I’ve read only Rainforest by Eileen Chong (my review here).

The biennial Indigenous Writing Prize lists two works I’ve read/seen: Taboo by Kim Scott, which we read for the Book Group (my review here), and Leah Purcell’s play The Drover’s Wife, which I was completely blown away by at the Belvoir.

Then there are the categories not blogged by Lisa (and mostly unread by me, sadly). I’ve commented where I have more than nothing to say:

People’s Choice Award:
If you live in New South wales you can vote for any of the titles on the Christina Stead Prize shortlist (click here).

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry:
Interval by Judith Bishop
I Love Poetry by Michael Farrell (my review here)
Things I’ve Thought To Tell You Since I Saw You Last by Penelope Layland
Wildlife of Berlin by Philip Neilsen
Blindside by Mark Reid
Rondo by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature:
Between Us by Clare Atkins
Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein
I Am Out With Lanterns by Emily Gale
Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough
Stone Girl by Eleni Hale
The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature:
Shine Mountain by Julie Hunt
Maya and Cat by Caroline Magerl
Leave Taking by Lorraine Marwood (I haven’t read this but I did blog about her Downhill all the Way, Five Islands Press 2005)
Dingo by Claire Saxby and Tannya Harricks
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
The Dog with Seven Names by Dianne Wolfer

Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting:
The Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver
Oil Babies by Petra Kalive
Going Down by Michele Lee
Lost Boys by Lachlan Philpott
The Long Forgotten Dream by Howard Lawrence Sumner (I saw this in the Sydney Theatre Company, and though the performances were terrific there was something unresolved about the play itself,
Barbara and the Camp Dogs by Ursula Yovich and Alana Valentine (I saw this at the Belvoir, and loved it – but I’d love anything that had Ursula Yovich in it, and this had Elaine Crombie as well)

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting:
Picnic at Hanging Rock, Episode 4 by Alice Addison (Has this been screened yet?)
Jirga by Benjamin Gilmour (I saw this at the Sydney Film Festival, and it was one of my favourite films of 2018.)
Seoul City Sue by Noëlle Janaczewska
Mystery Road, Episode 5 – ‘The Waterhole’ by Timothy Lee (I loved this series, more than the first series, but I never remember individual episodes.)
Mystery Road, Episode 1 – ‘Gone’ by Michaeley O’Brien (Ditto)
Riot by Greg Waters

The winners will be announced on 29 April, on the eve of the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Marilynne Robinson’s Lila

Marilynne Robinson, Lila (Virago 2014)

This is the third book in Marilynne Robinson’s superb Gilead trilogy. I wouldn’t be sorry to learn that the series will continue.

The first book, Gilead, is narrated by John Ames, an ageing Congregationalist pastor in the small US town that the book is named after, trying to explain his life of faith to his alienated son. A main strand of that book is Ames’s intense relationship with the Reverend Boughton, another pastor in Gilead. They both are devoted to their God, to their calling as clergymen, to each other, and to a rigorous thinking through of their Calvinist faith. I don’t know that I’ve ever read theological discussion that was so warmly human.

The second book, Home (which I’ve blogged about here and here), covers ground already traversed in the first, but from a different points of view: it’s mainly the story of Boughton’s disgraced son Jack, coming home with a new wife. Lila is named for Ames’s second wife, and tells the story of her radically deprived childhood and life on the margins leading up to the moment when she improbably but convincingly finds a home with the one she thinks of as ‘this good old man’.

I regret reading this so long after its predecessors. We only get what Lila overhears of Ames and Boughton’s conversations, and Boughton’s adult children have tiny, non-speaking roles, so there’s a sense of so much happening outside the scope of the narrative , some of which I’m fairly sure was explicit in Gilead. My impression is that the action of Home takes place after the action of this book, but I wouldn’t swear to it. And I don’t suppose it really matters. Lila’s story is compelling in its own right.

She was saved from probable death from neglect as a small child by a vagrant woman named only Doll. She grew up under Doll’s fiercely protective care in Depression USA, joining a group of itinerant workers, going to school enough to learn to read, always moving on when Doll feared they were about to be found by Lila’s vengeful kinfolk or other enemies. Doll’s life ends in violence – after she stabs to death a man who may be Lila’s biological father.

Lila manages to survive a time working in a brothel and the hardships of life on the road until almost by accident she walks into the church in Gilead. Before that, her minimal literacy has led her to the Bible, and phrases from Ezekiel about a baby weltering in its blood somehow struck a deep chord in her imagination.

Interspersed with this story, the story of Lila growing up, coming to Gilead and proposing marriage to Ames, there is the story of her emotional journey towards deciding to stay with him. Virtuous characters are notoriously difficult to create, and once created they are difficult to make interesting. From one point of view, Lila exists as a device to allow us to see Ames as interesting: her every interaction with him is informed by the violence and deprivation that have formed her, as well as her fierce love and loyalty to Doll.

We no longer hear the intricate theological discussions of Ames and Boughton. Instead, Ames is challenged to examine the basic nature of his faith. It’s a good bit of the power of the book that he rises to the challenge with humility, affection, even delight. It’s evangelical Christianity, but not as we have come to know it in the age of Trump.