Only eight books (compared to last year's twelve) have made the cut this year onto the Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist, announced today. They are
Peter Carey: Theft: A Love Story
John Charalambous: Silent Parts
Richard Flanagan: The Unknown Terrorist
Sandra Hall: Beyond The Break
Gail Jones: Dreams Of Speaking
Kate Legge: The Unexpected Elements Of Love
Deborah Robertson: Careless
Alexis Wright: Carpentaria
To my mind the most arresting thing about this list is that it doesn't include former winner Andrew McGahan's Underground, a funny, angry dystopia about Australia in the near future. I thought it was a good book within the parmeters of its generic aspirations (or, as a Margaret Drabble character with curly red hair, high cheekbones and big eyes says somewhere, probably in The Gates of Ivory, 'I was a great beauty, in my genre'); maybe not the kind of book that actually wins major fiction prizes, but I'm very surprised not to see it even on the longlist.
And if Peter Carey wins for Theft, the game's crook.
UPDATE, 16/3: Carpentaria, Careless and Theft: A Love Story were all on the shortlist for the Commonwealth Writers Prize Regional Best Book Award but were beaten to it today by New Zealander Lloyd Jones, who has a number of substantial novels to his credit and has had lots of good press for the novel he won this prize with, Mr Pip, reviewed here. (NB that shocking grammatical error in the third to last paragraph was introduced by a sub-editor. Just so you know.)