Short Stories

‘In nearly all Trevor’s stories,’ wrote V.S. Pritchett almost four decades ago, ‘we are led on at first by plain unpretending words about things done to prosaic people; then comes this explosion of conscience, the assertion of will which in some cases may lead to hallucination and madness.’ Even here, in this collection ...

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Apple and Knife by Intan Paramaditha, translated by Stephen J. Epstein

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May 2018, no. 401

There is an observation in the titular story of Indonesian writer Intan Paramaditha’s first collection to be published in English, which can be read as the thematic spine of the book: ‘Sometimes it seemed like there was nothing new to talk about. It was the same old story, repeated over and over, all stitched together.’  This notion ...

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Property by Lionel Shriver

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May 2018, no. 401

The sadly departed Terry Pratchett once said, ‘Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.’ While it is difficult to imagine anyone claiming that the great fantasist had no right to tell the stories of witches, orang-utans, and sentient luggage, authors of literary fiction have lately been held to a different standard ...

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This is a playful, intelligent, unsettling series of stories, fourteen of them, collected from publications going back a few decades from 1987 until 2012 as well as, presumably, unpublished work. Due in part to this long span, the book traces back and forth through time. There is even a Sydney pre-Opera House (just) ...

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It is a pleasure to read a collection of short fiction in which every story is a work of elegant and meticulous craft. Catherine Cole has brought her significant observational and lyrical skills as a poet, novelist, and memoirist to bear on these stories, and the narratives unfold with cool, restrained style. However, this ...

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In her Introduction to The Best Australian Stories 2017, Maxine Beneba Clarke describes how the best short fiction leaves readers with ‘a haunting: a deep shifting of self, precipitated by impossibly few words’. Many of the stories here achieve this, inserting an image or idea into the reader’s mind and leaving it there to worry ...

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The characters in Melanie Cheng’s collection of short stories are all outsiders or misfits in some way. Some feel conspicuously out of place, such as the Lebanese immigrant Maha, in ‘Toy Town’, who is struggling with suburban Australian life, or the Chinese medical student Stanley, who is visiting the family farm of a friend in the titular story. Stanley freez ...

Barbara Kingsolver, praising the skill required to write a memorable short story, described the form as entailing ‘the successful execution of large truths delivered in tight spaces’. Her description certainly applies to Jennifer Down’s wonderful début collection, Pulse Points. Using the typical strategies of suggestion, ambiguity, and inconclusivene ...

The characters who populate Tony Birch’s Common People are striking not so much because they are the ordinary people, the commonplace or everyday people that the title would suggest – they are, mostly, people living in or with extremity and trauma – but because the thing that unites them in these stories are discoveries of small moments of common huma ...

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’ L.P. Hartley’s now proverbial observation at the start of The Go-Between (1953) functions as a statement of fact and a warning. The writer who wishes to traverse the terrain between a nation’s present and its past must navigate a minefield – linguistic, cultural, and historical. Therefore, when you attempt to navigate not only across time but across nations ...

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