The Walls of Jericho
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 118 pp, $12.95 pb
At various times in its history, the Australian short story has been predictable, as editorial and public appetites have limited experimentation. I am glad to be reading now, when approval can be conferred on collections as different and as variously excellent as Julie Lewis’s The Walls of Jericho and Peter Skrzynecki’s The Wild Dogs. Lewis’s work is more formally experimental than Skrzynecki’s, but both collections offer insight into the social and the literary.
Julie Lewis is part of the vigorous Western Australian literary community. She is, or has been, a teacher, writer, broadcaster, and editor. The sureness of her style and the extent to which she is prepared to take risks exhibit a confidence which comes from long familiarity with the evaluation and encouragement of writing. Her stories blend the recognisable with fantasy and fable. They are told in a spare style which invites consideration, rather than consumption and disposal. The title, The Walls of Jericho, suggests the unexpected – and imperative – collapse of defences and the stories investigate the substantial and the vulnerable, textually and socially. The use of irony and the exposure of delusion are central to this investigation.