Short Stories

The Rest is Weight by Jennifer Mills & Tarcutta Wake by Josephine Rowe

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November 2012, no. 346

 The Rest is Weight, by Jennifer Mills, is a restless collection of short stories. Its settings include Russia, remote parts of Australia, Mexico, and China. The stories are densely packed; there are no ‘snapshots’ or ‘sketches’, only well-made narratives populated by plausible, complicated characters. Nor is there any decorative writing; no show ...

Fault Lines  by Pierz Newton-John

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September 2012, no. 344

In this collection of short stories from Pierz Newton-John, the author calls upon the suburban familiarity of a garden weed: couch grass, the fast-spreading pest whose rhizomes grow rapidly in a suffocating network, until the area it covers is ‘strangled’ and the custodian must ‘pull up the entire intractable tangle and start again’. This network of affliction that spreads throughout Ne ...

The making of a writer involves more than talent and ambition; perseverance and a thick skin are also prerequisites. The best that can be hoped for from a teaching institution is that potential writers are exposed to new ideas and encouraged to experiment with content and form. The results are seldom perfect, but at least they can prove interesting.

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f ourW twenty-two is an initiative of the Booranga Writers’ Centre in Wagga Wagga. This current edition features short stories and poems by (predominantly) Australian writers. Some of these writers are prominent names; others are relatively unknown.

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The novelist’s art is wide ranging; he is concerned with a multitude of things that comprise the fabric of his book. The short story writer, however, is concerned with one thing that implies many, since singularity and intensity are the essence of his art. The best short story writers depend on a marked personal attitude and this is the distinguishing characteristic of David Martin’s second collection of stories whose common denominator is his compassionate understanding of the problems of New Australians.

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It’s a simple proposition: short graphic stories about city life, and one narrator – Mandy Ord – drawn with a single bulging eye. But the slice-of-life stories in Sensitive Creatures are rarely straightforward. Sweeping and brittle, kinetic and lush, this is a consistently surprising volume, at once an autobiography, a collection of vignettes, and a comprehensive catalogue of an artist’s career.

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The ABC Shop is currently selling online The Best Australian Stories 2010 for $14.99. ‘Ideal for summer reading’ its advertising says, and it surely doesn’t matter which summer. At that price you might get yourself a copy and sling it in your beach bag, unless you suspect it might dampen your holiday mood. More than a few reviewers found the overall tone of the collection bleak and negative: ‘one of the more depressing reads of the year’, wrote Chris Flynn in these pages (February 2011). If that doesn’t sound like ideal beach reading, shell out the full RRP and buy The Best Australian Stories 2011.

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Janette Turner Hospital, who grew up in Brisbane, has taught in Australian and overseas universities, and is well regarded as a novelist and short story writer; among several prizes she has won the Patrick White Award. The stories in her new collection, Forecast: Turbulence, are set in several places where she has lived, including Canada and the American South, where the weather is similarly violent. Despite the fact that this metaphor is flagged throughout this collection, I formed little sense of many of her characters in either place or clime.

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Inheritance is either a burden or a blessing in this selection of Amanda Curtin’s short stories. Strung like beads under evocative headings, each story addresses an aspect of love, loss, grief, or desire, and reveals Curtin’s capacity for empathetic characterisation.

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The short story form is the realm of perfection, proclaims Steven Millhauser in his 2008 New York Times essay, ‘The Ambition of the Short Story’, in which the ‘virtues of smallness’ are dissected, along with the successes and shortcomings of the genre. Jess Huon’s first short story collection, The Dark Wet, could be described in many ways, but ‘small’ is not one of them. Across three ‘sequences’, these nine stories cover much ground, not only geographically – they span from Melbourne to San Francisco to Varanasi, India – but thematically, too, exploring the confusion of falling in love with a best friend, the fuzziness at the edges of gender, the fluidity of religion or faith.

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