Calibre of the year
Dean Biron and Moira McKinnon are the dual winners of the 2011 Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay, the fifth to be presented by ABR in association with Copyright Agency Limited’s Cultural Fund. The judges – Jane Goodall, winner of the 2008 Calibre Prize, and Peter Rose, Editor of ABR – considered almost 300 essays, by far our biggest field to date. The other shortlisted entrants are Peter Barry, Bruce Grant, Evelyn Juers, and Kim Mahood, whose essays will appear in ABR in coming months. All nineteen longlisted essays are named on our website. We congratulate all of the authors.
Certain themes soon became apparent during the judging. Mortality and the complexities of familial life remain the most common ones, but the judges were struck by the number of essays on or referencing Bob Dylan. Life writing is a major spur to Calibre entrants. As in 2010, Indigenous subjects prompted several of the most compelling entries, including those by Moira McKinnon and Kim Mahood. Overall, the judges were impressed by the enquiring nature, the erudition, and the stylistic diversity of the essayists.
Moira McKinnon is a public health physician who has worked in northern Australia and northern Canada. Her essay, ‘Who Killed Matilda?’, is based on her years as the main adviser on communicable diseases for the Australian Department of Health and Ageing. On learning of her win, Dr McKinnon commented: ‘I wanted to aim at the high standard of the Calibre Prize-winning essays in order to convey Matilda’s story as effectively as I could, and to highlight the question of humankind’s lost connection with nature. Thank you ABR and Copyright Agency Limited for making this possible with the Calibre Prize.’
Dean Biron, who has written for ABR several times, lives in Brisbane and has a PhD from the University of New England. A former police detective, Dr Biron is currently employed as a senior analyst with the Queensland Children’s Commission. In his essay, ‘The Death of the Writer’ – more polemical than most Calibre entries – Dr Biron opposes a culture that inflames literary ambition and self-identification. He remarked: ‘Often the hardest part about writing is finding the motivation to, as Beckett put it, “fail better”. CAL and ABR deserve the highest praise for motivating individuals to apply themselves to the underappreciated essay form.’
‘The Death of the Writer’ appears in this issue. Moira McKinnon’s essay will appear in the July–August issue, after the Art issue.
ABR remains most grateful to CAL for enabling us to present Australia’s major prize for an original essay and for advancing the cause of essay writing in this country. We hope to be able to present the sixth Calibre Prize later this year.
ABR heads to Clunes
We’re off to Clunes in mid-May for one of Victoria’s most original literary gatherings. Back to Booktown brings together countless antiquarian and second-hand booksellers, and presents a wide range of literary soirées and masterclasses. Peter Rose will lead separate classes on reviewing and on poetry. ABR staff members look forward to meeting readers and bibliophiles at our stand throughout the festival.
The judges, from a field of almost sixty titles, have shortlisted six books for this year’s National Biography Award. They are Alan ‘The Red Fox’ Reid: Pressman Par Excellence (Ross Fitzgerald and Stephen Holt); Grand Obsessions: The Life and Work of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin (Alasdair McGregor); Macquarie (Harry Dillon and Peter Butler); My Father’s Daughter (Sheila Fitzpatrick); Piano Lessons (Anna Goldsworthy); and Playing with Fire: The Controversial Career of Hans J. Eysenck (Roderick Buchanan). The winner – who will receive $20,000 – will be announced on May 16, during the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
Oscar and Astrid
Shaun Tan is the winner of the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest prize for children’s and Young Adult literature. The jury’s citation lauded the ‘masterly visual storyteller’ for combining ‘brilliant, magical narrative skill with deep humanism’. Tan also won an Oscar this year for the animated short film of his book, The Lost Thing.
Pursuit of ideas
Conversation always goes up a notch when Patrick McCaughey returns to Australia. The former director of the National Gallery of Victoria was in Melbourne recently, and spoke with his usual flair at a private gathering of ABR Patrons. Patrick McCaughey was in Australia to launch the program of the Pursuit of Identity: Landscape, History and Genetics, Melbourne University’s Festival of Ideas, which he is directing for the second time. The dates are June 13–18. Admission is free, but many sessions have filled up already so be sure to register your interest.
Patrick McCaughey, one of a stellar group of contributors, will also write for us next month. Other contributors to the Art issue will include Gerard Vaughan (Director of the NGV), Frances Spalding, and Daniel Thomas – on MONA. Galleries and publishers wishing to advertise in the June issue should contact Mark Gomes to reserve space: (03) 9429 6700.
CONTENTS: MAY 2011