WELCOME TO NORMAL
by Nick Earls
Vintage, $29.95 pb, 288 pp, 9781864711547
When asked why his later writing had taken on such a different character, Eugenio Montale explained that this was because it came from la retrobottega – literally, from the back of the shop – that place where an artist might unhurriedly conduct a private experiment or two. Something similar might be said of Welcome to Normal, the first collection of stories by Nick Earls in more than a decade. Earls is, of course, well known for his cheerful novels about young Brisbane schlemiels and their tribulations of the heart (though the author must by now grit his teeth every time the label ‘lad lit’ is misleadingly appended to his work). These latest stories suggest an altogether different trajectory for his fiction, one that is more ambivalent, more serious, and much closer to the world we call real.