Editor of the Australian Literary Review, Stephen Romei:
And so to books. I have just caught up with David Free’s recent piece in Quadrant, titled What’s Wrong With Australian Fiction? The short answer, if I may summarise Free’s argument, is “a sh.tload’.
Free makes his case on his reading of the five novels shortlisted for last year’s Miles Franklin award: Tim Winton’s Breath, which won, Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, Louis Nowra’s Ice, Murray Bail’s The Pages and Richard Flanagan’s Wanting.
What ensues is a catty and funny piece. I confess to being a sucker for this sort of writing, though I’m sure others will think it’s as sophisticated as a toddler pointing out the cripple in the room.
Free lauds Breath and gives The Slap due credit but he launches into the other novels, and their authors. Flanagan won’t let his story tell itself but is “constantly stepping in from the wings with the finger-quotes raised and the bullhorn whining, eager to reassure us that he disapproves …” Nowra’s novel is “ … so plain tedious, so hard to get through ..’’ And reading Bail’s he was “haunted … by the sense that it can’t possibly be as bad as it seems to be …’’
Along the way he criticises literary prize culture, the tendency, as he sees it, to judge books by their authors and not the other way around, and asks whether anyone edits Australian novels any more. Read it for yourself here.
Published in the Australian Literary Review blog "A Pair of Ragged Claws"
David Free’s “What’s Wrong with Australian Fiction” is here…