Miles Franklin Award Commentary

"The Literary Saloon", one of the best literature weblogs going around, recently noted the announcement of the longlist for the Miles Franklin Award and added the comment: "Only 59 books were submitted for consideration, a pretty feeble number that makes us wonder about the state of literary affairs down under." Which, on the face of it, seems like a quite reasonable statement - 59 is not a lot of novels to be eligible for the country's main literary award. But let's look at it in comparison to other countries.

The UK had an estimated population of 60.5 million in 2006, while Australia's was 19.855 at the 2006 Census. So let's round that out at 3 times, which, if converted to novels for a similar award, leads us to 177. If the UK published 177 literary works a year that, to paraphrase, "portrayed British life in any of its phases", would it be considered healthy? The USA has an estimated population of 303.5 million in 2008, which we'll take to be 15 times Australia's. Thus, a similar question for the USA would relate to 885 novels and plays. You'd have to think that was pretty good. So the 59 works entered for the Miles Franklin Award, as a bland number, looks quite small, but on a population comparison basis stands up pretty well.

Would we like more to be published? Of course we would. But the industry isn't quite as bad as mere numbers would seem to indicate.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 17, 2008 9:37 AM.

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