The Best Australian Stories 2016
Black Inc. $29.99 pb, 230 pp, 9781863958868
If a collection of stories is put together on the basis that these are the ‘best Australian stories of 2016’, is it fair or reasonable to hope for some kind of cohesiveness or gestalt beyond those three explicit parameters of quality, place, and time? The answer will depend largely on what the editor’s ideas might be, not only about what makes a good short story, but also about the way to make a group of individual stories add up to a book: to something more than the sum of its parts.
This year’s editor, Charlotte Wood, herself a celebrated writer of fiction, is a woman of unusual intellectual flexibility and reach: at one end of the spectrum she is quickly gaining an international reputation for her dreamlike dystopian novel The Natural Way of Things (2015), at once a powerful political fable and an extraordinary feat of imagination; and at the other end she has experience as a senior arts administrator and a scholar, this year adding a PhD to her growing collection of achievements.