A pair of

Ragged claws

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

GIVEN the de­bate about misog­yny in pub­lic life, the tim­ing is good: or­gan­is­ers of the Stella Prize, a lit­er­ary award for Aus­tralian fe­male writ­ers, have an­nounced the in­au­gu­ral prize, worth $50,000, will be awarded in April next year. Af­ter much in­ter­nal de­bate, the or­gan­is­ers have de­cided to keep the field wide open: the prize will be ‘‘pre­sented for the best work of lit­er­a­ture pub­lished in 2012 by an Aus­tralian woman’’. So nov­els and works of non­fic­tion will go head to head, and also face com­pe­ti­tion from po­ems, plays and ev­ery­thing else that comes un­der the ban­ner of lit­er­a­ture. He­len Garner, a Stella Prize am­bas­sador, says this ‘‘grace­ful flex­i­bil­ity about genre’’ will ‘‘en­cour­age women writ­ers to work in the forms they truly feel at home in, in­stead of hav­ing to squeeze them­selves into the old tra­di­tional corsets’’. Even so, I don’t envy the judges: writer and critic Ker­ryn Goldswor­thy, au­thor Kate Grenville, book­seller Fiona Stager, ac­tress Claudia Kar­van (I know I shouldn’t say this, but that’s one way to sex up a judg­ing panel) and ABC broad­caster Rafael Ep­stein (and I’m def­i­nitely not say­ing any­thing about to­ken men). En­tries close on Novem­ber 15. De­tails at www.thestel­laprize.com.au. SPEAK­ING of book prizes, con­grat­u­la­tions to Bill Gam­mage for tak­ing home the $100,000 Vic­to­rian Prize for Lit­er­a­ture this week for his non­fic­tion work about Abo­rig­i­nal land man­age­ment, The Big­gest Es­tate on Earth. Gam­mage won in a show­down be­tween the five cat­e­gory win­ners, each of whom re­ceives $25,000. The oth­ers were Gillian Mears (fic­tion, Foal’s Bread), John Kin­sella (po­etry, Ar­mour), Lally Katz (drama, A Golem Story) and John Larkin (YA, The Shadow Girl). AND of course we had the Man Booker Prize an­nounce­ment, with Hi­lary Man­tel win­ning for Bring up the Bod­ies, the se­quel to her 2009 Booker win­ner Wolf Hall, a tri­umph that also pro­duced our quote of the week: ‘‘Well, I don’t know,’’ she said, ‘‘you wait 20 years for a Booker and two come along at once.’’ THE re­cent Ubud Writ­ers and Read­ers Fes­ti­val was just about the best lit­er­ary event I have at­tended. Why? The Bali set­ting helps, of course, but it’s more than that: there’s a vibe, for want of a bet­ter word, about the fes­ti­val that is most ap­peal­ing: se­ri­ous yet re­laxed. And while he may not want to use this de­scrip­tion to pro­mote his next al­bum, rock star Nick Cave, with whom I did two events, is an old-fash­ioned gen­tle­man: warm, charm­ing and gen­er­ous. Spend­ing time with him de­fied that adage about it be­ing un­wise to meet one’s heroes. CANA­DIAN au­thor Mar­garet At­wood is tour­ing Aus­tralia early next year. At­wood will be a guest of the Perth Arts Fes­ti­val, which kicks off on Fe­bru­ary 8, and later that month will do an outof-sea­son event for the Bris­bane Writ­ers Fes­ti­val, fea­tur­ing a ‘‘per­for­mance’’ of her most re­cent novel, The Year of the Flood. REG­U­LAR read­ers of this news­pa­per will know we are run­ning an e-books pro­mo­tion: 12 ti­tles, from the po­ems of Banjo Pater­son to the life of John Howard, avail­able for free down­load. To­day’s book is Geral­dine Brooks’s Amer­i­can Civil War novel March, which won the Syd­ney­born writer a Pulitzer prize for fic­tion in 2006. To pro­mote the of­fer, I asked Stella Clarke to write a piece con­sid­er­ing March in the con­text of Brooks’s other works. You will find that, plus de­tails of how to get your free copy, on page 22.

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