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Miles Franklin

New Partner for ABR

Let’s be candid. Producing a magazine of this kind is not easy in a country with a small population and one where the life of the mind (even if not ‘the least of possessions’, to quote Patrick White) rarely commands the attention or glamour often associated with sporting events and other fashionable distractions.

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A new prize for Miles Franklin

Miles Franklin turns fifty this year. Well, 128, to be strictly biographical. Three years after the death of Miles Franklin (1879–1954), the inaugural Miles Franklin Literary Award was inaugurated. This year, the judges have rather more money to present ($42,000) than they did in 1957, when Patrick White’s Voss won the Award.

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My Brilliant Career 

Belvoir St Theatre
14 December 2020

My Brilliant Career may not be Belvoir’s first post-pandemic show, but it’s surely the most joyous. Hot on the heels of a government exemption raising audience numbers to seventy-five per cent capacity, the mood on opening night was exuberant – almost as exuberant as Sybylla Melvyn, My Brilliant Career’s impossible yet impossible-not-to-love protagonist.

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After My Brilliant Career appeared in 1901, Miles Franklin spent a few years living in Sydney, where she enjoyed being fêted as a new literary sensation. Her attempt to earn a living by writing fiction and journalism about women’s issues was less than successful; even the timely and witty suffrage novel, Some Everyday Folk and Dawn (1909), was knocked back at first. In 1906, at the age of twenty-six, she left Australia for the United States. She spent the next nine years living in Chicago and working for the Women’s Trade Union League, secretary to its wealthy patron, Margaret Dreier Robins, and editing its journal, Life and Labour, with her compatriot Alice Henry. The two Australians enjoyed recognition as enfranchised women, a status that American women were still fighting for.

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Jolley Prize, Fay Zwicky (1933-2017), Miles Franklin Award shortlist, Porter Prize, Conversational Calibre, Memoirs of historians, Philip Roth ...

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News from the the Editor's Desk in the August issue of Australian Book Review.

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‘Arran Avenue, Hamilton, Brisbane, Australia ... Why Australia? What is Australia, anyway?’ 
(Dante, in David Malouf’s Johnno)

Some footy talk before the book chat: I saw Wayne Carey play once, in Adelaide. He was a puppeteer that day. You would have needed a panoramic view – television doesn’t capture ...

My Brilliant Career, the book Miles Franklin published in 1901 when she was twenty-one, cast a shadow over her entire life. It sold well and made her famous for a time, but it did not lead to the publication of more works. The glittering literary career foretold by the critics did not eventuate, at least in Franklin’s opinion. ‘The thing that puzzles me,’ she wrote to Mary Fullerton on New Year’s Day, 1929, ‘is how are we to know whether we are a dud or not at the beginning; I mean how long should a poor creature smitten with the egotism that he can write, keep on in face of rebuffs’.

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In December 1982, publisher Richard Walsh commissioned a ‘life and times of Miles Franklin’ from historian Jill Roe. The book ‘has been a long time coming’, says Roe, ‘due to other commitments and responsibilities, and because of the extent of previously unexamined source material.’ That source material – letters, articles, unpublished manuscripts, journals – exists in quantities that can be inferred from Roe’s comment near the end of the book, where she is describing Franklin’s final illness: that ‘from 1 January 1909 to 1 January 1954, there is some kind of record of what Miles Franklin was doing on virtually every day of her life.’

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The publication of Miles Franklin’s diaries, written during her years in Australia from 1932 until her death in 1954, must be one of the year’s major literary events. events. Franklin, who frequently lamented her relative neglect in the contemporary literary culture of the 1930s and 1940s, has become steadily more and more visible since the 1970s, when international feminism discovered My Brilliant Career (1901). Meanwhile, much of her continuing significance is due secondarily to the extensive biographical research by Jill Roe and others.

Primarily, Paul Brunton’s source is the enormous archive of letters, manuscripts, reviews, notebooks, and diaries that Franklin left to the Mitchell Library. Brunton has mined this archive with great sensitivity and fine scholarship. This volume has a balanced introduction placing the entries in the context of Franklin’s life, explanatory footnotes through the text, a glossary of names, a bibliography of Franklin’s published works, a list of manuscript sources, an index and photographs. An occasional editorial note is inserted tactfully as a biographical signpost.

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