A pair of

Ragged claws

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

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.

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