Transgressions: Australian writing now
Penguin, 245 pp, $8.95 pb
The Australian Short Story: An anthology from the 1890s to the 1980s
by Laurie Hergenhan
University of Queensland Press, 329 pp, $25 hb
I have a theory that every second Australian is a closet short story writer. And this is a conservative estimate. According to my theory, the so-called ‘booms’ in the history of the Australian short story in the 1890s and 1950s merely reflected fashions in the book and magazine publishing businesses, not the relentless scratching away in exercise books or thumping of battered typewriters which occupies the waking hours of the determined taleteller and which is, I am convinced, a more popular national pastime than dodging income tax. How else to explain the sheer volume of short stories being published? And these are but the tip of the iceberg – a mere fraction of those that have been and are being written.
The current boom is not simply reflected in the numbers of anthologies and collections currently available, although these are significantly high. There has been in recent times a notable increase in the numbers of literary magazines publishing short stories regularly. The numbers of literary and little magazines are themselves increasing and, if Tabloid Story is now defunct, other outlets which appear more frequently have sprung up to take its place. The Australian newspaper prints a quarterly Literary Supplement comprised mainly of short stories; In-print: the short story has been resurrected and now appears three times annually while Bruce Pascoe’s Australian Short Stories, appearing quarterly since No.1 at the end of 1982, continues to grow in popularity and prestige. Rumour has it that the much-lamented short story biennial, Coast to Coast is soon to be revived, extending even further the avenues open to previously unpublished material.