Short Stories

Morag Fraser reviews 'Stone Mattress' by Margaret Atwood

Morag Fraser
Monday, 27 October 2014

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, as the stark proverb cautions, but a cockatoo flocking of short stories suggests that the form is perhaps enjoying a revival – and the publishing industry has seized an opportunity. As it should.

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This collection of strange and spooky stories was perfect reading for that lazy week between Christmas and New Year, providing a dark antidote to the forced cheeriness of the season. The book was inspired partly by The Twilight Zone and similar television shows. Contributors to the anthology were invited to write about the fantastical, uncanny, absurd, or, as ...

Finishing Chris Somerville’s début story collection, We Are Not the Same Anymore, I felt a sense of alienation and ennui. Somerville writes with a stylistic sparseness that is deceptively simple but that repays rereading. Passages of awkwardness and deep introspection are punctuated by moments of humour, warmth, and vulnerability. Embedded within this star ...

Melinda Harvey reviews Alice Munro's 'Dear Life'

Melinda Harvey
Friday, 26 April 2013

Philip Roth wasn’t the only writer to take the unusual step of announcing his retirement at the end of last year. Confirmation that Alice Munro was also relinquishing fiction was tucked away on the New Yorker’s blog, Page-Turner, three days after the New York Times ran an interview with Roth on its front page. While literary magazines here and over ...

The latest Sleepers Almanac opens with a surreal encounter between a suave cane toad, presented as an amphibian Jiminy Cricket, and the guilt-wracked mother of a drug addict (‘Happy Monday’), and ends with the elaborate imaginings of a woman trying to distract herself from the reason why she is sitting in a hospital waiting room (‘How to Talk to a Fire ...

In one of Georgia Blain’s subtle, beautifully paced stories, a young girl is given an IQ test. Believing it to be a game, she is outraged when her older brother crows about his results and she realises she has been evaluated. Later, as an adult, she can put her childhood indignation into words: ‘I thought it was just a matter of random chance. I should have been ...

From the opening page of this her second collection of stories, Susan Midalia propels her uncertain and wavering female character into an alien environment. Enter the concrete world of Moscow airport, its people who think you are simple if you smile at them, its ‘prowling men straight out of gangster movies’, tension as the blank, unblinking woman at immigration ...

Anthony Lynch reviews 'Like a House on Fire' by Cate Kennedy

Anthony Lynch
Friday, 26 October 2012

Cate Kennedy’s fine second collection of short stories, Like a House on Fire, is of a determinedly realist bent. Metafictional play does not generally form part of Kennedy’s armoury, and the mostly low-rent settings and struggling characters reprise what in the 1980s and early 1990s was briefly known as dirty realism, though Kennedy’s prose is not as re ...

 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 ...

Milly Main reviews 'Fault Lines' by Pierz Newton-John

Milly Main
Tuesday, 28 August 2012

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 ...

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