Reading Madame Bovary
Black Inc., $32.95 pb, 269 pp
From a clutch of novels including the award-winning Camille’s Bread (1996), Amanda Lohrey has now turned to shorter literary forms, notably two Quarterly Essays (2002, 2006), a novella (Vertigo, 2008) and this new collection of short stories. At the 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival she publicly confessed her new leaning, arguing the benefits of genres more easily completed by both writer and reader and less likely to produce guilt if cast aside unfinished.
I do not share her preference, tending to enjoy looking forward to the next chapter of, say, War and Peace. But I am also an avid consumer of Chekhov’s short stories, one of the reasons for their strength being the way they compel us to mull over the extended, unwritten conclusion which preoccupies our minds well beyond the final full stop, and which makes our ruminations an organic but invisible complement to the author’s intention.