It has been another big week for literary prizes. Ugandan writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi won the £5 000 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for ‘Let’s tell this story properly’ beating nearly 4000 other writers. The shortlist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story award was also announced. Last week the WiR reported three Australian writers had made it into the first round of the coveted prize. That number should have been five. We overlooked the achievements of Ali Alizadeh, who was longlisted for Transactions, and Abbas El-Zein, who was recognised for The Secret Maker of the World. Belated congratulations to both. Despite strong representation on the longlist, however, no Australian author made it into the final six.
PEN America also announced the shortlists for the 2014 PEN Literary Awards. Covering a number of genres – including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, translation, essays and science writing, among others – this year’s shortlists read like a who’s who of literature. Prominent shortlisted writers include Janet Malcolm, W.S. Merwin, David Sedaris, James Wolcott and Rebecca Solnit. The lists also include emerging writers Taiye Selasi, Kwame Dawes and Anthony Marra. The judging panels are impressive too and feature Geoff Dyer, Kimiko Hahn, John Lithgow, Zadie Smith, Stanley Fish, Cheryl Strayed and E.L. Doctorow.
Closer to home, and following last week’s coverage of black&write!, we are happy to report that Adrian Stanley and Jane Harrison are the winners of the State Library of Queensland’s 2014 black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowships . The fellowships are worth $10 000 each and are awarded on the basis of a manuscript submission. They also include a publishing deal with leading Australian Indigenous publishing house Magabala Books. Could be Worse will be Adrian Stanley’s first novel, while Jane Harrison, who won for her young adult manuscript Becoming Kirrali Lewis, is already an established playwright.
Finally, a big congratulations to Evie Wyld, who has had a winsome few days in England with her novel All the Birds, Singing. Within the space of 24 hours, Wyld picked up the £10 000 Encore Award and the £5000 Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize , an accolade she will share with seven other writers. The Jerwood Prize honours the best British writing of the year while the Encore Award celebrates second novels. Wyld notably edged out Man Booker prize-winner Elanor Catton for the Encore Award. Now the battle is on to see which country can claim her, with both the Australian and British media calling her ‘one of their own’. Wyld was born in New South Wales but has spent most of her adult life in England. It’s a tough call, and one perhaps best settled by Wyld herself, but given the prize-winning novel is set in Australia we are calling it a local win.
This week the Sydney Review of Books moves across expansive terrain in its selection of essays. Richard King reviews Ronald Dworkin’s final book Religion Without God. Dworkin, who died last year, was regarded as one of the most important philosophers of law in the last century. He was also one of the most controversial. King’s essay Bad Faith considers Dworkin’s unusual ideas about religion, particularly as they relate to issues of morality. Rosemary Sorensen’s review of Robert Hillman’s fifth novel Joyful, meanwhile, considers what she sees as the novel’s strange and problematic representations of women.
We have selected two of our favourite essays for this week’s From the Archive. Stephanie Bishop’s review of A.L. Kennedy’s On Writing is a must-read for anyone who has either taught or studied creative writing. In her book, Kennedy makes several innovative suggestions for shaking up the writing classroom, including a not-entirely cavalier proposition that would see students working with live horses. Bishop’s Horses for Courses speaks to an ongoing debate in writing pedagogy, asking whether creativity can be taught and questioning the value and function of creative writing workshops. Our other pick is Brian Castro’s thought-provoking feature essay Literature and Fashion . Castro, who has won many prizes over the years for his novels and essays, writes about changing contexts of literary criticism – a timely discussion given the approaching ASAL conference (9-12 July) – and about the art and responsibilities of the literary critic.
If you didn’t get a chance a few weeks ago, you may also like to read former federal Education Minister Peter Garrett’s essay Free, Compulsory and Secular, which we published last month and which has acquired fresh relevance this week following the High Court’s decision to uphold a challenge to the controversial school chaplains program. His review of Marion Maddox’s important book Taking God to School offers critical insights into the chaplains program and the sometimes uneasy relationship between religion and state education in Australia.
Finally, it would be remiss not to end this week without mentioning Jeanette Winterson. Earlier in the week, Winterson gave new meaning to the phrase ‘bunny boiler’ when she posted pictures on Twitter of a rabbit she had killed, skinned and cooked. The novelist tweeted photos of the rabbit in various states of culinary preparation, which not only included shots of the animal simmering in a pan doused in rosemary and thyme, but also of her cat gnawing away at its entrails. Like a contemporary Mr McGregor, Winterson had killed the rabbit after catching it eating her parsley. ‘Rabbit ate my parsley,’ she tweeted: ‘I am eating the rabbit.’ The event sent the Twittersphere into a frenzy, with some tweeters lashing out at Winterson for her cruelty, while others congratulated her for living the paddock-to-plate philosophy. The Byron Bay Writers’ Festival could have a new theme on its hands when it welcomes Winterson in August this year.