Miles Franklin led a frugal life – as you will see if you read her
letters as edited by Jill Roe. She was saving up for a secret project:
to endow a posthumous award (I quote from her will) "for the Novel for
the year which is of the highest literary merit and which must present
Australian life in any of its phases".
For the 2002 Miles Franklin Award, the judges, Dagmar Schmidmaier, Hilary McPhee, Elizabeth Webby, David Marr, and Father Edmund Campion, shortlisted five novels.
Commenting on the winner's novel, the Judging Panel wrote:
"Dirt Music is a huge, powerful novel about love, guilt, pain, fear – and the visceral, transforming power of music. Beginning in a redneck fishing town, it takes to the road as Luther Fox, abalone poacher, on the run from himself, heads into the trackless country to the north. With his extraordinary powers of physical description and his readiness to take risks with his writing, Winton conjures a primordial land and seascape and unforgettable characters who live on the edge of the continent on the edge of their nerves. Contemporary Australia, on the surface so money-grubbing and self-absorbed, at its heart so deep and unfathomable, has rarely been laid as bare."
The Art of the Engine Driver
The Art of the Engine Driver is an exquisitely crafted journey of Australian suburban life. The story is shared out among George Bedser's guests during a single evening - his daughter's engagement party - and moves backwards and forwards over time as Carroll peels back the layers and lives of the characters. Although the themes are familiar, the approach is fresh and irresistible.
Gould's Book of Fish
Gould's Book of Fish is a witty, dense, colourful, rich creation which plunges the reader into a fantastic world of Van Diemen's Land. In doing this, the novel reveals everlasting aspects of what it means to be human; and how we humans live in our imaginations, however straitened our circumstances. You will not forget it.
Gilgamesh takes us from a small farm in Western Australia to Soviet Armenia during World War II and back via the Middle East. Her wanderers, however, are not the male heroes celebrated in the ancient epic which provides the novel's title, but a young woman and her child. Even the most ordinary of people, we learn, are capable of extraordinary acts of sacrifice and betrayal. Despite it's wide range and large gallery of memorable characters, Gilgamesh is not a long novel, just one in which every word counts.
The Architect is a tale of destruction written with icy clarity. Gripping, spare and surprising, it explores the moral hazards of allowing oneself to become a disciple. Whereas other novels on this year's shortlist are notable for their regionality, Scott explores the rarefied world of the professional architect.