It was almost a year ago exactly that S. and I had what will go down in household AOS history as one of the most pleasant, satisfying, and inspiring editorial experiences ever. Our friends at Giramondo in Australia, who also sent us Gerald Murnane, had shared the latest from the Miles Franklin Prize-winning author of Carpentaria. It was their lead title for 2023, they said, and was clocking in at a modest 250,000 words. (For anyone who isn’t sure what that means in practical terms: take Signs Preceding the End of the World, multiply it by seventeen, and you’d be about there.) It was called Praiseworthy.
Now I say this next bit as someone already besotted with Alexis Wright’s work, who sees her as a future Nobel contender, and who knows full well that Wright – like one of her favourite writers, a certain Krasznahorkai – doesn’t really do short. A year ago the energy crisis was in full swing. Print costs were skyrocketing. And that size? Well, it was daunting. But even more daunting than the prospective print bill was the sheer rolling energy of the first few pages. Surely, we said to ourselves, surely nothing can sustain itself at that level for so long –
Turns out something can. And in the weeks that followed, every evening when the kids were in bed, S would read aloud and I would bead, and we’d laugh uproariously in glee in amazement, repeating passages two or three times for sheer delight, and stifling the impulse to live-tweet as best we could.
It was page after page of astonishment. One can see foreshadowings of this in her other work, but – in my opinion anyway – Praiseworthy takes the experiment and performance to another level entirely. The dynamic energy of the prose and the power of the intelligence behind it left us and continues to leave us both gobsmacked. As publishers these are the moments we live for – they make all the slog worthwhile.
As Praiseworthy wends its way out into the world, we’d encourage you to let it roll over you. Read it aloud, read it to each other, read it in snatches or read it in one headlong dizzying rush. If you nip over to our socials you can see snatches of the team reading their favourite passages aloud. As The Skinny recently and rightly said, ‘some books you have to simply let happen to you … Praiseworthy is one such book.’