TEXT review


New stories

review by Anneli Knight

 

Aviva Tuffield (ed)
New Australian Stories 2
Melbourne: Scribe Publications, 2010
ISBN 9781921640865
Pb, 346 pages, 29.95AUD

 

The editor of New Australian Stories 2 is frank about the purpose of this short story collection. Scribe’s Aviva Tuffield writes in her editor’s note that opens the book: ‘One of the central aims of this anthology is to offer new and emerging writers the chance to appear alongside more established names’.

The established names among this collection of 26 authors might mores aptly be described as ‘celebrated’ with the inclusion of this year’s Miles Franklin short-listed author Chris Womersley; darling of the short story genre Cate Kennedy; and Marion Halligan, a recipient of an AM for her services to literature.

Tuffield says of this genre:

Short stories are vital training ground for our writers: they allow a flexibility and scope to experiment with an idea or a character or a voice – to perfect something in miniature. (Editor's note, n.p.)

And the training ground is well represented. A significant proportion of contributors are creative writing students undertaking Masters or PhD courses, being published alongside a generous selection of teachers of university writing programs.

The collection begins with Paddy O’Reilly’s timely recipe for 'How to Write a Short Story' (1) which I have used in this review (in italics) to provide a guide to entice you to this delicious book:

Take the first person, gender her, name her, crack her, separate the body from the soul and set body aside...
In A.G. McNeil’s story 'Reckless, Susceptible' (184) we meet Drew who is cracked by childhood memories amid a long absence from his girlfriend when his soul is set aside from his body by wine and whisky.

Put the remaining people into the place… marinate… for at least a week...
The bar is always a good place for marinating and even better on a relentlessly rainy night where we find ourselves in Zane Lovitt’s 'Leaving the Fountainhead' (279), in which a mysterious traveller seeking directions triggers memories of his time in a pickle.

Preheat the situation…
Ruby Murray’s 'Outback' (202) introduces us to the simmering desires of Mark, owner and shop assistant of 'Australian Outback Adventure Outfitters on Ryrie Street, Geelong, Victoria, Australia, population 132,770' who has resolved to do more, today, than fantasise about his future.

Fold…soul back into her body...
In Fiona McFarlane’s 'Exotic Animal Medicine' (38) we are warned of the event that will risk wrenching soul from body in the story’s first sentence: 'The wife was driving on the night they hit Mr Ronald', before we hear the story of this young couple on the day of their furtive wedding.

Place in a superheated situation...
Two sisters sharing the same man is a recipe for superheating, and Peggy Frew’s 'No-one Special' (66) navigates the complexities of this most complicated set of relationships.

Test whether the story is done by inserting a reader....
On Paddy O’Reilly’s suggestion, it can be concluded this collection of short stories has been baked to precision, serving up a tray of closely-observed morsels.

 

Anneli Knight is a freelance journalist, regular contributor to The Age and Sydney Morning Herald and co-author of Flirting with Finance (Fairfax Books). She is soon to complete a PhD in creative writing, with her novel set in the Kimberley where she has spent much of her time over the past six years.

 

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TEXT
Vol 15 No 2 October 2011
http://www.textjournal.com.au
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Kevin Brophy
Text@griffith.edu.au