January–February 2017, issue no. 388
Crow is wild. His black eyes glint and his beak seems to smile. Malicious and mischievous, he sits in a living room with two boys and their father wrapped in his wings. The woman who was their mother and wife has died, leaving the family 'like Earth in that extraordinary picture of the planet surrounded by a thick belt of space junk'.
Crow is the titular bir ... More
Edna O'Brien, in a recent interview, recalled being stuck for a plot. It was a filmmaker's remark about Tolstoy that sparked her latest novel, The Little Red Chairs: '[Charlie McCarthy] said, "Tolstoy said there are only two great stories in the world. A Man on a Journey, or A Stranger Comes to Town." And at that moment I thought, I've got it. I'm going to ... More
'Why do we write?' asks David Brooks at the start of this exhilarating collection of short stories. 'What are we groping for?' The entire collection seems like an attempt to answer a question that the author acknowledges is unanswerable. Yet there is no futility here. His groping, as he calls it, charms and disturbs and conjures up images of extraordinary, if fleeti ... More
There is something alluring about the publication of a lost or unknown literary manuscript. How will it fit into the author's body of work? Is it inferior to or better than the published work? Does it illuminate a hitherto unknown aspect of the author's thinking, or make you re-examine the known sequencing or themes? These questions were on my mind as I read Fea ... More
'Everything is so sedate you could weep for vexation.' The first novel of literary academic Adrian Mitchell is a strange one. It is a fictional memoir that aims to inhabit the imagined world of the colonial artist S.T. Gill. This is a conceit that should free the narrative from the mundane, but The Profilist is a study in the ordinary.
The novel is ... More
Jenny Ackland, in her fine début novel, re-imagines Australia's historical landscape, exploring a fictional world in which Ned Kelly fathered a son. Delving into relationships that span generations and continents, Ackland merges the stories of James Kelly, a young man who fights at Gallipoli in 1915 but 'won't kill any man' and Cem, a lost young man looking to conn ... More
'I try to imagine going back': so begins a story about a woman remembering her childhood even when it seems she would just as soon forget it. Hope Farm is Melbourne writer and musician Peggy Frew's second novel. Her terrific début, House of Sticks (2011), was about, among other things, contemporary parenthood and the rhythm of conventional and unc ... More
'Freg nisht dem royfe, freg dem khoyle – Don't ask the doctor, ask the patient,' my grandmother says in Yiddish, one of eight languages at her disposal, having grown up in Europe during World War II and migrated as a teenager to the multilingual melting pot of Israel. I smile and ask her for another gem. My grandmother obliges, this time with a juicy-soun ... More
In Jo Case's 'Something Wild', young single mother Kristen is tempted to rediscover 'the thrill of doing what she feels like, just to see what happens'. She could be speaking for characters in many of the pieces in The Best Australian Stories 2015, a collection that features people on the verge of transgression. As Amanda Lohrey writes in her introduction, ... More