Fellow Passengers: Collected stories
Penguin, $16.95 pb, 371 pp
Elizabeth Jolley is quoted in this volume saying that ‘Writing for me is a ragged and restless activity with scattered fragments to be pieced together rather like a patchwork quilt.’ To a degree this is an apt metaphor, suggesting as it does careful attention to the particular and the gradual accumulation of the discrete parts into a whole. It also suggests the contrast between light and dark that is the feature of many quilts and of Jolley’s writing. However, patchwork is altogether too domestic an activity to contain the driving intelligence and iconoclasm that are dominant elements in Jolley’ s work.
A more helpful metaphor, which was suggested by Helen Daniel in Liars, is that of Jolley’s literary offering being one extended fugue, made up of constant and varying parts, a collection of contrapuntal treatments of the fundamental themes, and accommodating the parody and humour that this form of music allows.