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AN early prediction: the most shortlisted novel on the literary prize circuit this year will be Anna Funder’s All That I Am. Having said that, I’ll be surprised if it, or any novel, dominates as Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance did last year. There’s just too much competition. I’m looking forward to the Miles Franklin long list, which is due to be announced some time this month (I’m writing on March 15). Aside from Funder’s superb book, here are 11 others (to give us a dozen) that I expect to be in contention: Steven Amsterdam’s What the Family Needed, Mark Dapin’s Spirit House, Gail Jones’s Five Bells, Malcolm Knox’s The Life, Wayne Macauley’s The Cook, Gillian Mears’s Foal’s Bread, Frank Moorhouse’s Cold Light, Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows, Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper, Rohan Wilson’s The Roving Party, Charlotte Wood’s Animal People. And no doubt I’ve missed some. I KEEP meaning to mention the entertaining new online journal of Sydney poet John Tranter . . . so here goes: you will find it at johntranter.net/journal. Tranter writes engagingly about a lot of things: poetry of course, art, films, food, travel. Search for the piece titled ‘‘Book titles can be tricky’’. It’s a lot of fun, as is the whole site. I RECENTLY had lunch with a well-read friend who revealed he didn’t fully appreciate Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago until his recent fifth reading of it. He first read it as a youth; he’s now 50. This reassessment has seen him elevate Pasternak towards, if not exactly into, the same same company as the great Russian epic novelists: Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and (for my friend and perhaps for me too) Mikhail Bulgakov. I wonder, does this sort of thing happen often? THE last time British philosopher A. C. Grayling graced our shores, it was for standing room only events at last year’s Sydney Writers Festival. I expect he’ll draw similar crowds on his return next month for an out-of-season festival event, not least because he’ll be talking about one of the hot-button issues of the moment: the phone hacking scandal that has engulfed the British media in general and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in particular. Grayling discusses ‘‘The public, the private and the line between’’ at the City Recital Hall in Sydney on April 17. For details call 1300 797 118 or (02) 8256 2222 or go to cityrecitalhall.com.
‘‘Who has?’’ Joseph Heller’s answer, later in his life, to those who asked him why he had never written a book as good as Catch-22. OK, it’s an oldie, but I think it’s a goodie and I hadn’t heard it until it cropped up in a fascinating piece about Heller in the March 8 issue of the London Review of Books.