Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On the NZ Post Book Awards 2011 (but mostly just the best first book o' fiction)

Congratulations to Pip Adam, winner of the 2011 NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction for her short story collection, Everything We Hoped For.

I interviewed Pip in July last year on this blog. It’s a good read, if I do say so myself.

Along with Pip and myself, there was another great new Kiwi short story writer surfing the New Wave in 2010: Tina Makereti (also interviewed here). The latest news is that Tina’s book, Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa is being studied at Harvard, so there are honours all round.

But back to the NZ Post Book Awards. In addition to the First Book Winners (fiction, poetry, non-fiction) being announced today (with no shortlists), the short-lists for the best books were also announced.

There’ll always be comments about the one’s that missed out, especially so with only three short-listed slots each for fiction and poetry. So there’s no Lloyd Jones or Patrick Evans (see my thoughts on Gifted here), but there is space for Laurence Fearnley’s The Hut Builder (which I wasn't mad about), Tim Wilson’s Their Faces Were Shining and Charlotte Grimshaw’s The Night Book.

The Listener’s Guy Somerset has a nice wrap up of the awards, in particular the sluggish/non-existent coverage in the media today.

Bookman Beattie also weighs in on the awards. Including this snippet:
And of course the title omitted that everyone is talking about is Craig Cliff's A Man Melting. It cleaned up tough international competition to win the Commonwealth Writers Prize for best first book and yet doesn't even get short-listed in our local awards?
What were the judges thinking about?
Well, I can’t speak for the judges but here are a few thoughts from me...

1) Who is this everyone that the Bookman hears talking? Was it my mum?

2) Just because one set of judges like one book, doesn’t mean all panels will agree with the choice.

3) Don’t blame the judges for the no shortlist for first books / 3 book shortlist for fiction set-up. That’s on booksellers NZ and the awards’ committee. And they have their reasons, however narrow-minded.

4) In the scheme of things, it’s probably a good thing to share the “first book” prize love around. It's hard to keep any buzz going for a first book 12 months after it was launched without an accolade like this and Pip is a great writer (and encouragingly her best stuff is her new stuff - I think ‘Featherston Street’ which was published in Turbine 2010 is better than anything in EWHF, and ‘This Year’ in Sport 39 raises the bar even higher).

5) Doesn’t it say something that the last two winners of the best first book (fiction) at the Posties have been short story collections (Anna Taylor won in 2010)? Yes. It says there’s some pretty exciting stuff happening in NZ writing, especially when it comes in small chunks of prose. Now if only Sue Orr's From Under The Overcoat can win the Best Book award next year, the short story's (re)ascendence will be complete!


Gogol said...

But that's Sue Orr's second book.

Craig Cliff said...

Yeah, that's why I said "Best Book"... said...

Classy blog, Craig