Friday, 22 September 2017

The Booker Shortlist

The shortlist has been announced for the 2017 Man Booker prize. The thirteen titles in the longlist have been whittled down to six.

When the longlist was announced I predicted Arundhati Roy, George Saunders, Moshin Hamid and Colson Whitehead would be shortlisted. Well, I was only half right; Roy and Whitehead were booted. Three Americans made the cut, which will undoubtedly reopen debate about whether the Booker should have expanded beyond Commonwealth writers.

The authors vying for the prestigious prize are:

  • 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (USA)
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (USA)
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK)
  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (USA)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (UK)
I wasn't all that enamoured with the longlist, and so I find the shortlist disappointing. The only ones I expect I will read are Hamid and Saunders. I have started the latter and, if I had to guess, I would pick Lincoln in the Bardo to win. But don't take my word for it. I never get it right!

The Winner with the announced on 17 October 2017.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Miles Franklin Award Winner 2017

The winner of the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award was announced on Thursday 7 September.  Perth-based writer Josephine Wilson was the recipient of the honour and the $60,000 prize for her novel Extinctions. The novel had previously won the 2015 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.

The story focuses on a retired engineer who has had a once-thriving life as an academic and expert, and has now moved into a retirement village. Widowed and estranged from his adult children, he lives in miserable isolation. When a neighbour intervenes he is forced to confront his loneliness.

The Judges described Extinctions as:
a meditation on survival: on what people carry, on how they cope, and on why they might, after so much putting their head in the sand, come to the decision to engage, and even change. 
I have not read this book, so cannot comment on its merits directly.   The shortlist from which this novel was chosen as the winner was made up of first-time nominees:

Of these, I have only read Emily Maguire's novel and really enjoyed it.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Morsels of Verse

I was drawn to a Rupi Kaur's bestselling collection of poetry, Milk and Honey (2015), in part because I love reading new contemporary poems, but also as I was curious about this poet who had achieved such extraordinary commercial success.

The collection is divided into four parts: hurting; loving; breaking; and healing. The poems themselves align with these themes and are accompanied by the author's drawings.

Some of the poems I found quite moving, but as a whole the book left me flat. Many of the poems are only a few words long and sound like fortune cookies or horoscopes, for example:

    in love 
    with your solitude

    if the hurt comes
    so will the happiness

    accept yourself
    as you were designed

This was frustrating, leaving me underwhelmed. Lowercase, lacking punctuation, and often rather twee, these morsels drew my attention away from her more meaningful verse with its feminist undercurrent.
Much of this book felt like I was viewing the Twitter stream of a daily self-help account. Reading the thoughts of reviewers on Goodreads and elsewhere it appears that Kaur's verse is polarising, with some people buying into it wholly, and others asking if it is actually poetry.  I lean more towards the detractor side, and it was only the few meaningful poems contained in this collection and the lovely illustrations that prevented me from throwing this book across the room.

For a contemporary poetic voice, check out the poetry of Kate Tempest.