Friday, 20 April 2007

Alexis Wright's Carpentaria is one of four novels shortlisted for the 2007 Miles Franklin Award, Australia's premier literature prize. Kerryn Goldsworthy predicted its inclusion (and missed out on the quinella by one). Over on Matilda, Perry notes that one person who commented on an earlier post predicted the list accurately.

So we come to coverage in the press. My prize for best reporting goes to Susan Wyndham of The Sydney Morning Herald. Her headline, 'Westerners have the write stuff', highlights the fact that two of the shortlisted authors hail from Western Australia.

Why does the west - home to Tim Winton, the late Elizabeth Jolley and many others - inspire so much good writing?

"Because there's nothing else to do," Robertson half-joked. "There is something about the emptiness I respond to. There is not as much cultural noise and I can hear my own voice more clearly. I live in Fremantle, which is just a little port, and there is a place for an interior life."

Wyndham calls Wright's entry "a big, satirical novel that looks at the effects of mining on the Gulf country and its communities".

She wanted to tell her story in a way "that might encourage Aboriginal people to read and understand the possibilities of literature to explain who we are" - as endless academic texts and journalism fail to do.

Which, to me, is not quite fair. There has been some excellent reporting on indigenous issues in recent times, not least an article by Wendy Bacon, who is both a journalist AND an academic. My suggestion to Wyndham: there's no need to denigrate one party in order to raise up another.

Tracy Ong in The Australian reports:

Miles Franklin judge Morag Fraser said the panel was unanimous in deciding which four books out of 55 entries would make this year's short list.

"It's a very strong short list," she said.

"This year it was an enormously varied short list. Because Australia is so cosmopolitan, it's difficult to point to either imagery or predominant themes."


Wright is nominated for her second novel, Carpentaria, described by Fraser as an "extraordinary Aboriginal baroque".

Inspired by her involvement in the Waanyi people's battle against the Century Mine in the Gulf of Carpentaria in the 1990s, Wright imagined characters so vivid they would not be out of place in an opera set in far north Queensland.

"It took a long time to figure out how to write it," Wright said. "What I tried to do in Carpentaria was look at how the old stories are told."

In The Age, Jason Steger focuses on Carey.

The West Australian, you would think, would make an effort in consideration of the two native lasses represented so visibly. But in the absence of a literary editor, it contented itself with running a syndicated piece from AAP.

But at least it trumps The Advertiser, Adelaide's daily sheet, which carried nothing.

In Brisbane's The Courier-Mail, Dianne Dempsey's review of Carpentaria is included on one page along with ones for Carey's Theft: A Love Story, and Deborah Robertson's Careless.

There's no coverage in Hobart's Mercury.

The winner will be announced on 21 June.


TimT said...

'Carpentaria' will be an interesting read, as the title and subject at least are a fairly obvious homage to Xavier Herbert's wonderful 'Capricornia'.

Anonymous said...

Dean, it was Alexis Wright who said journalism and especially academic writing did not represent Aboriginal people as they see themselves or as they want to read about themselves. I was quoting her indirectly, though I realise that wasn't clear.

Matthew da Silva said...

Yes, it wasn't clear.

I've read no academic writing on aborigines but I am following the issue of access for journalists to aboriginal communities, currently denied. My feeling is that such access is desirable for the general public. Much like another beleaguered community - Muslims - it seems as though aborigines distrust the media. Although some aborigines, such as Noel Pearson, have learned to use it for their own purposes.