The Lucky 13: Miles Franklin Longlist 2012

The longlist for Australia’s most prestigious (and controversial) literary award has been announced – and last year’s short (all-male) shortlist has been followed by a long longlist, dominated (just) by female writers.

Tony Birch, Blood
Steven Carroll, The Spirit of Progress
Mark Dapin, Spirit House
Virginia Duigan, The Precipice
Anna Funder, All That I Am
Kate Grenville, Sarah Thornhill
Gail Jones, Five Bells
Gillian Mears, Foal’s Bread
Alex Miller, Autumn Laing
Frank Moorhouse, Cold Light
Favel Parrett, Past The Shallows
Elliot Perlman, The Street Sweeper
Charlotte Wood, Animal People

‘Critics will be hoping some of the longlisted women make it to the next stage – and that one of them wins,’ wrote the Sydney Morning Herald’s literary editor Susan Wyndham yesterday. She reminded readers of a statistic that has been cited often following last year’s ‘sausagefest’: a woman has only won 12 times in the 55 years of the Miles Franklin.

But debut novelist Favel Parrett, one of the seven women on the shortlist, Parrett, 37, told the Australian it was ‘disappointing’ that the sex of winning or shortlisted authors had become an issue. ‘Stella Miles Franklin would not want it to be about gender … It should just be about the best book, and this year there have been an amazing amount of books (by women).’

Chair of the Miles Franklin judging panel Gillian Whitlock commented on another trend in this year’s longlist: the prevalence of historical fiction. ‘The 2012 list reflects the strength of historical fiction in the contemporary novel,’ she said. ‘Entries this year include the third and final novels in the historical trilogies by Frank Moorhouse and Kate Grenville, fictional historical biographies by Steven Carroll, Anna Funder and Alex Miller and fictional narratives of World War II by Mark Dapin and Elliot Perlman.’

John Atkin, CEO of The Trust Company said it had been encouraging to see such a varied collection of books in the longlist and hoped the strength of the list would rouse debate in literary circles.

‘There are virtually no surprises or scandals worth mentioning, other than a few noteworthy absences,’ wrote Big Issue books editor and novelist Chris Flynn on Meanjin’s blog. He said:

it is surprising to see The Precipice chosen ahead of Rohan Wilson’s wonderful gothic nightmare The Roving Party or Wayne Macauley’s cutting satire The Cook. Similarly, some will be disappointed that Craig Sherborne’s The Amateur Science of Love, Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing and Steven Amsterdam’s What the Family Needed have missed out on spots, though those last two may have been discounted for not meeting the condition that books ‘must present Australian life in any of its phases’.

His punt on a winner? Kate Grenville.

John Franklin of Booktopia marked Malcolm Knox’s The Life and Kylie Ladd’s Last Summer as disappointing omissions.

Kylie herself, over on Meanjin, was ‘astonished’ that The Life didn’t make the cut. ‘Knox’s novel is incredibly original, wild, inventive and touching – a real game-changer in many ways, and most definitely Australian (on which criteria I was surprised The Street Sweeper got in).’

‘No matter which of these books make the short list, it will be one of the strongest in many years,’ says the Australian’s literary editor, Stephen Romei.

He declared it ‘perhaps the strongest since 2004, when the books in contention were Peter Carey’s My Life as a Fake, J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, Peter Goldsworthy’s Three Dog Night, Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire (the deserved winner), Annamarie Jagose’s Slow Water and Elliot Perlman’s Seven Types of Ambiguity.’

Romei’s bet on a winner? Frank Moorhouse’s Cold Light.

This year’s shortlist will be announced of 3 May. The winner will be announced on 20 June.

May the best book win!

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