Prime Minister Awards Old Girl Literary Award
Congratulations to St Catherine’s Old Girl, Dr Lisa Gorton (’89) who has been awarded the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for Literacy in Fiction for her novel, ‘Life of Houses’ which explores the relationships between three generations of an Australian establishment family.
The Judging Panel for the Awards commented that:
Lisa Gorton, in The Life of Houses, has written a highly original novel in which she has made the background of her narrative the foreground. She has taken a common place and made it mysterious and profound. Over a century ago the French novelist Gustave Flaubert said that he would like to write a book with no content, a book that was nothing but style. Lisa Gorton has gone some considerable way toward realising this essentially modernist ambition. She avoids all sensation, and the high points of her narrative all occur off stage, or are spoken of in the most low-key manner. These moments include a mother’s consideration of beginning an affair, a young girl’s failure to make a connection with a gay painter who is interested in her as a person, a ghost that never appears and the death of the girl’s grandfather. All these incidents, and others, typify what might be called the author’s contribution to the “a car went by” school of writing (walking to the beach one day it is noted that “a car went by” without any import or symbolism to this phrase).
While this is not a novel for every reader, those who enjoy observation will find it a book of exquisite precision. It is a work of realism taken to the point where that immemorial style is renewed for the modern reader. Some may remember the French novelist who caused a stir in the 1950s, Alain Robbe-Grillet, who concentrated on the physical objects informing his work. Like him, Lisa Gorton has written a book whose virtues are all in its details, but she has an unpretentious, clean and warm style which makes her remote from her similar predecessor.
Dr Gorton continues to inspire generations of students at St Catherine’s and we were so proud to have her officially open our refurbished Senior School education precinct, including our Nicholas Library, in 2015, as well as recognise her exceptional talent through the SCOGA Nil Magnum Nisi Bonum Project.