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Shortlisted for the 2017 Miles Franklin Award for Literature. Shortlisted for the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Prize. Shortlisted for the 2017 Prime Minister’s Award. 

Waiting is a story of two odd couples in prose as marvellously idiosyncratic as its characters. Big is a hefty cross-dresser and Little is little. Both are long used to the routines of boarding house life in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, but Little, with the prospect of an inheritance, is beginning to indulge in the great Australian dream, which has Big worried. Little’s cousin, Angus, is a solitary man who designs lake-scapes for city councils, and strangely constructed fireproof houses for the bushfire zone. A handy man, he meets Jasmin an academic who races in her ideas as much as in her runners. Her head is set on publishing books on semiotics and her heart is turned towards her stalled personal life. All four are waiting, for something if not someone.

Antoni Jach has called Waiting “a bittersweet tale of the marginalised and the searching.” and that it is “Weirdly moving, tender and insightful”, while John Clarke has praised Salom as “a wonderful storyteller”.  Sue Woolfe says Waiting contains: “flashes of poetry and sudden insight and such profound compassion (it) should be labelled – WARNING: Could make the reader kinder”.


“It is undoubtedly the work of a poet; he works his sentences hard. Every paragraph is chockers with flamboyant and often witty insights into the tedium of earthly existence. There are a lot of laughs. But the book needs to be taken slowly. Waiting is jovial, but it is also a workout. Salom never allows the reader to skate over the surface. He dictates the considered pace at which you will move through this celebration of lives whose small details elevate them to a kind of dignity well beyond the dross that, in other hands, would make them ephemeral.” MICHAEL MCGIRR, Australian Book Review

“In his brilliant and unsettling novel Waiting, Philip Salom has unleashed Australia’s oddest literary couple since the elderly twin brothers Arthur and Waldo Brown in Patrick White’s The Solid Mandala (1966).” PETER PIERCE, The Australian

“I can forgive almost anything in a novel when the ending is just right: pitched perfectly, timed flawlessly, and with a finely tuned balance between completion and a sense of more to come.

Waiting has such an ending. As soon as I reached the last page, I forgot the times when my patience was tried getting there. But with a title such as Waiting what else should you expect? This is a novel that illuminates a state most of us are in most of the time: suspended before some mythical “next stage” begins, while life carries on around us in all its tedium. It reminded me of Jim Jarmusch’s films – there’s often a hell of a lot of waiting around before you reach the end, and then the perfection of the conclusion makes sense of all that preceded it.” The Saturday Paper

“there is throughout a courtliness to the characters, partly poetic and an expression of Salom’s diction, but partly a result of their not quite being present, not quite having arrived in the world. There is a lovely line between their self-construction and Salom’s construction of their characters, which is poignant, rather than being as annoyingly po-mo as it might sound.” PETER KENNEALLY, The Sydney Morning Herald (paywalled)

“Much of the writing is exquisite, sliding into an abstracted dreamlike poetry that manages to progress the narrative thread while expanding the perspective outward… Ultimately, what makes Waiting such a wonderful book is that Salom treats all of the characters in this book, even the most miserable, with a deep-seated sense of shared humanity…Waiting is critically important – a novel that tells little and shows much, leaving its readers full of fresh insight.” MAGDALENA BALL, Compulsive Reader

“Salom uses the intertwining stories of these four people to explore the theme of ‘waiting’ and its constituent themes of aloneness and loneliness, the tension between inner and outer worlds, and the love and intimacy that can, at least in part, overcome these things. This is also a novel about class that exposes the unjust differences between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, even as it shows the universality of the human condition: we are all waiting for something, no matter who we are or what we have.” HELEN GILDFIND, TEXT

Waiting may occasionally test the reader’s patience with its meticulous pace and lack of dramatic incident, but it’s a novel that is ultimately rewarding. We spend it waiting with these characters, exploring the uncertainties, joys, frustrations and occasional relief of being stuck somewhere between the big movements and moments of life. Some characters, like Jasmin, burn with impatience; others, like Big, find the state to be addictive and are content to lose themselves within it. Readers may find themselves swinging between these states as the narrative progresses, but the novel’s purposefully sedate approach allows a space for the careful accumulation of detail and the gradual development of relationships, which reveal quiet pleasures and sorrows, love and longing, ordinary beauties hidden in plain sight.” JULIAN NOVITZ, Cordite Poetry Review

Waiting is poignant, compassionate and droll; it is never maudlin nor idealised. Salom’s prose, poetic and frequently playful, bestows a multiplicity of incidental insights en route, yet never condescends to its subjects nor patronises its readers.  As rollicking as it is original and affecting, Waiting is a highly readable addition to Australian literature.” Judges’ comments, 2017 Miles Franklin Award