I'm a bit late to the table with this one, having been asked a couple of weeks ago to get something out - but the books I'm asking you to consider have been around for longer than that, so no great harm's been done, I hope.
Note ye all that voting for your favourite of 20 Victorian (that's set in the Garden State) novels on the State Library of Victoria's Summer Reading program is closing tomorrow.
There's a terrific website here complete with shortlist and blog, and I noted the 20 selected books displayed in tantalising poses at the State Library on Monday, both in the lobby and in the back corner of Mr.Tulk's cafe, enticingly close to a soft bench and a smart table - don't think those copies were for reading with the muffins, though. (Maybe next year??)
I do have a quibble with the list - I hope to see Brian Castro's The Garden Book on this next year, pleeaasse. And while we're at it, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, and Criena Rohan's Down By The Dockside. Nothing wrong with a really BIG book set in Victoria, is there? Nothing wrong with that at all. Or a book set in country Victoria and beautiful downtown Preston, like Wendy James' Out Of The Silence, which won a Ned Kelly crime writers' award earlier this year.
But it's a lovely initiative, and was well supported by The Age early in January with five good articles on selected books, complete with interviews with their authors. (Let's face it, it is going to be hard to interview some of my favourite authors of things set in Victoria. Deirdre Cash, who wrote as Criena Rohan, died of cancer in her late thirties, leaving behind two novels and a lost manuscript, and Martin Boyd is no longer with us either.)
The list is impressive, all the more so because there is room for expansion. Victoria's not exactly a huge place, it doesn't teem with writers like the ACT or Tasmania do - or perhaps it always has and always will. For this reminder alone, we should be grateful. And also for the fact that the program was sponsored by several publishers, and that the website has received sparse but useful feedback which should guarantee another fresh, similarly strong reading list next year.