We are delighted to announce that Lisa Gorton and Michael Farrell have been shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. Gorton’s The Life of Houses is shortlisted for Fiction and Farrell’s Cocky’s Joy for Poetry.
Judges comments for The Life of Houses:
Lisa Gorton, in The Life of Houses, has written a highly original novel in which she has made the background of her narrative the foreground. She has taken a common place and made it mysterious and profound. Over a century ago the French novelist Gustave Flaubert said that he would like to write a book with no content, a book that was nothing but style. Lisa Gorton has gone some considerable way toward realising this essentially modernist ambition. She avoids all sensation, and the high points of her narrative all occur off stage, or are spoken of in the most low-key manner. These moments include a mother’s consideration of beginning an affair, a young girl’s failure to make a connection with a gay painter who is interested in her as a person, a ghost that never appears and the death of the girl’s grandfather. All these incidences, and others, typify what might be called the author’s contribution to the “a car went by” school of writing (walking to the beach one day it is noted that “a car went by” without any import or symbolism to this phrase).
While this is not a novel for every reader, those who enjoy observation will find it a book of exquisite precision. It is a work of realism taken to the point where that immemorial style is renewed for the modern reader. Some may remember the French novelist who caused a stir in the 1950s, Alain Robbe-Grillet, who concentrated on the physical objects informing his work. Like him, Lisa Gorton has written a book whose virtues are all in its details, but she has an unpretentious, clean and warm style which makes her remote from her similar predecessor.
Judges comments for Cocky’s Joy:
Michael Farrell’s Cocky’s Joy is a series of deliberate non-sequiturs, of phrases resonant yet unconnected to the words which have gone before, “slowly edging towards Babel in reverse”, as one poem puts it. “We see the world as a black and white golf course. Constellations like buttons on Apollinaire.” While such sentences, on the surface, make no sense, they are nonetheless suggestive of a particular mind at work. Many of the poems in this book are nothing more than lists of items that have been glimpsed in passing by that mind, or consciousness, and as such they help to create an inadvertent self-portrait of a person whose thoughts are endlessly curious, witty, literate, allusive, with a frame of references that range from the domestic to the cosmic, taking in both high culture and popular media on the way.
To see the full shortlists and other categories, visit the Department of Arts website.