Sunday, July 26, 2009

counter, original, spare, strange - the montana fiction lists

It's Monday July 27, so it must be Montana NZ Book Awards Day. A year ago today, I was nervous about a. how The Blue would do in the Awards b. what to wear. By the end of the night, I was a. clutching two bottles of wine [one for each award] b. making buzzing noises in my excitement c. still dressed in something. A fabulous night.

Meanwhile, I am pleased to say that I have met my own TEA COSY CHALLENGE posed a little while back on this blog - reading five of the seven books in the fiction/new fiction lists. I meant to read all of them but children, family sickness, school holidays, and those relentless paying jobs mean I still have two left to read.

It's seems sexist of me, but they are the only two novels by men: Bernard Beckett's Acid Song and Mo Zhi Hong's The Year of the Shanghai Shark. I left them to last because, well, the others appealed more on the book shop shelves: the Perkins, Catton, De Goldi, Randall and Van der Zijpp novels.

At this point, I am thrilled with what I've encountered in Montana fiction so far. The novels are [in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins] 'counter, original, spare, strange'.

Add to that: fresh, accomplished and compelling.

Add to that: some of the best writing I have read this year.

The novels vary widely in what they write about and where - they are set in London and Fiji, Greece, New Zealand and Shanghai. They are set in family homes, B & Bs, a girls' school/drama school, a retirement village by the beach, and places unknown [to me] in Shanghai. They involve a sex scandal, a damaged woman living with a down-at-heel screenwriter, a woman's disappearance, a woman seeking revenge for a broken love affair and - apparently - scientists and street boys. I'm not doing the male writers justice here, and my apologies for this.

Suffice to say, none of these novels shout out 'Kia ora/Gidday listen to me, I am an important NZ novel.' They're singular pieces of writing that could stand up anywhere. My Tea Cosy Fiction Challenge was well worth every cent and minute I spent on it.

And so far, unless I hear otherwise from blog-readers sometime during today, I have won my own challenge. My naked teapot will, finally, have something to wear when we sit down tonight to find out who won the Montana NZ Book Awards 2009. I'm ignoring the premature announcement by Next magazine, by the way, taking on face value their declaration of a mistake.

My teaspoons will be crossed for....

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