A pair of
CONGRATULATIONS to the five writers shortlisted for this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award, which is worth a crisp $60,000 to the winner. As you’ve no doubt read by now, the immediate talking point following Tuesday’s announcement was the fact all five writers were women. They are Romy Ash for Floundering, Annah Faulkner for The Beloved, Michelle de Kretser for Questions of Travel, Drusilla Modjeska for The Mountain and Carrie Tiffany for Mateship with Birds. It’s the first all-female final since shortlists started being published in 1987 and comes in the wake of suggestions of a male bias —‘‘sausagefest’’ was the description du jour — in the award. I’ll leave it to others to suggest a female equivalent to sausagefest. The judges insist the best five books have made the cut. There are a couple of other aspects to the shortlist worth noting, if only for curiosity’s sake. First, it celebrates new or newish novelists. Ash and Faulkner are debutantes, as is Modjeska, though she has won numerous awards for her nonfiction. Tiffany’s novel is her second and de Kretser’s is her fourth. Second, most of the shortlistees were born overseas: de Kretser (Sri Lanka), Tiffany (Britain) and Modjeska (Britain). That multicultural mix is something worth celebrating. The winner will be announced on June 19. Good luck to all. WITH Mother’s Day looming I had planned to devote some space here to a brief survey of possible book gifts. However, I soon saw two problems: first, there are too many recent books touching on motherhood to cover them all; second, such a survey risks pigeonholing mothers as people who only want to read about motherhood. I’m sure there are lots of mums who’d be thrilled to receive the new John le Carre on May 11. So I’m going to mention just two titles, each of which has a philanthropic bent. Vision of Hope: Mother & Child is a beautiful coffee table book of photographs of mothers and children throughout the developing world (which includes parts of Australia). Published by aid group World Vision Australia, the book features the work of a team of photographers headed by Australian Ken Duncan. Here’s the uplifting thing: it’s full of smiling faces, from Bangladesh to Congo, from Mongolia to the Pilbara. We know these are places of grinding poverty — and worse — but here the focus is on hope. The book costs $59.95 and can be ordered from World Vision on 13 32 40 or visionofhope.com.au.
Dear Mum, edited by comedian and actress Julia Morris, is a collection of essays in which writers, television personalities and other celebrities pen letters to their mums. Contributors include Frank Moorhouse, Anna Funder, Di Morrissey, Kate Ceberano, Kaz Cooke, Kathy Lette, Reg Mombassa, Matt Preston and Mike Munro. There are some moving pieces, especially by those writing to mums no longer with them. Munro says the greatest regret of his life is that his mother, who was an alcoholic, died too young to share in any of his success or to see her granddaughter. Funder tells her long-dead mother that wherever she lives she keeps ‘‘lots of small things that were ours tucked into secret places’’. Things like her 1998 season ticket to the city baths, ‘‘valid for four more swims’’. Dear Mum is published by William Heinemann ($29.95) and all royalties will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
‘‘I am pleased to be writing in a time when I don’t have to write as Brent of Bin Bin.’’ Carrie Tiffany, referring to one of Stella Miles Franklin’s masculine noms de plume.