Practices, Influences, Themes

Last month, I had the pleasure of talking to Sarah L’Estrange of ABC Radio National. We discussed all things to do with At the Edge of the Solid World and its place on the Miles Franklin shortlist, and now, ahead of the announcement of the winner this week, our conversation has gone to air in a special episode of The Book Show focusing on all six shortlisted novels. You can listen to the full program at the ABC Radio National website, or download it here as an MP3; my section of the program begins at 41:00.

Endurance

Geordie Williamson has an overview of the Miles Franklin shortlist in today’s Australian. Here’s his take on the big picture:

The make-up of this year’s half-dozen strong shortlist — filled as it is with debuts and sophomore efforts, left-field inclusions and small-press gems — suggests literature is not just an elegant or angry restatement of this week’s news. It also comes from books that have a message that is private or determinedly mysterious. It comes from books that never reach the end of what they have to say.

As for At the Edge of the Solid World, Williamson describes the novel as “an emotional endurance test” that represents a “tendency of contemporary Australian writing to keep a foot in both camps, setting narratives on native ground that also gesture towards a wider world”.

Unbending

As part of the media hubbub around the Miles Franklin shortlist — which is entirely new territory for me — you can now find brief review of the six shortlisted titles at the ABC’s Arts portal. Here’s Sarah L’Estrange on At the Edge of the Solid World:

This novel does not bend to easy summation. On the surface it is about a man crippled by grief after the death of his newborn. But where other novels might cleave to a story of domestic drama — indeed his marriage does disintegrate — this one cleverly plumbs his inner world as he searches to understand this grief within the limitations of language and shared experience. … The narrator’s peripatetic mind investigates historical figures who’ve also grappled with loss and displacement, and the reader must tussle with the overlay of meanings this intellectually sophisticated novel animates.

Shortlisted

Well, somehow I managed to slip one under the wire: At the Edge of the Solid World has officially made it through to the shortlist for the 2021 Miles Franklin Literary Award. You can see the complete shortlist, including some rather rough (Zoomed-in) footage of me discussing the writing of the novel, in today’s announcement video:

There’s a pretty decent overview of the shortlist online at The Guardian. For my part, I’ve read two of the other five shortlisted books and I’ll set off this weekend to re-read them as well as diving into the three I haven’t encountered yet.

Longlisted

It’s true: the 2021 Miles Franklin Award longlist was announced today and At the Edge of the Solid World is one of the dozen titles on it. I’m honoured and humbled to see my novel receive a place on the longlist, and hopefully some fresh wind in its sails. Aside from that, I’ll say no more except to drop in here a response I was asked to give in the event of media interest:

As an expatriate author writing a book about an expatriate experience, I often felt at a distance from Australia’s literary scene and riddled with doubts about whether my work would really speak to readers in Australia. So, for me, this longlisting is both an unexpected honour and a reassurance that that experience — of uprootedness, of voluntary outsiderness — can indeed be a meaningful aspect of Australian life in its current phase.

The shortlist announcement is scheduled for June 16.