The authors of the stories in Breaking Beauty are graduates of the University of Adelaide, which Brian Castro (a professor there) reminds us in his introduction is ‘the first and best creative writing college in the country’. However, as an advertisement for creative writing at Adelaide University, this collection has limited success. While the contributors’ biographical notes are impressive – most have published a book, and there are winners of major national awards – the quality of the stories is uneven. J.M. Coetzee’s testimonial points to this with his focus on ‘the best of the writers in this collection [who] take us outside our comfortable selves’. Indeed, some of the best – like Stefan Laszczuk’s ‘The Window Winder’ with its image of decapitated heads kissing, Sean Williams’s ‘The Beholders’ as a clever Twilight Zone-esque tale of aesthetics, and Katherine Arguile’s beautiful ‘Wabi Sabi’ with its magical realist components – are masterful explorations of the uncanny.
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