The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

some­one to make my cof­fee.’’ There is a flour­ish of this kind of zany en­ergy in a few sto­ries, es­pe­cially the shorter ones, and a few lyri­cal em­bel­lish­ments should have been reined in: lines such as ‘‘ mov­ing us along like a hiss­ing snake, swal­low­ing all our minds in a milky swirl of white poi­son’’, for ex­am­ple.

Squirm­ing be­neath the sur­face of much of this col­lec­tion is the no­tion of in­her­ited guilt, and bound within this is a fair dose of per­ver­sion and de­prav­ity.

A cou­ple of sto­ries, how­ever, such as Daugh­ters of Ve­su­vius, deal with sin­is­ter sex­ual trans­gres­sions in a way that lacks a richer tex­ture and nu­ance.

Pa­tric’s best sto­ries are the longer ones driven by char­ac­ter, with more care­fully devel­oped nar­ra­tives and set­tings. Mur­mur is a bril­liant tale com­prised en­tirely of Carveresque di­a­logue. In­tel­li­gent and funny, it’s a unique ac­count of the first tremor of love.

The Eter­nal City is an­other ex­cel­lent story. Veron­ica flies in to Rome to meet up with her boyfriend, Evan, who has been hol­i­day­ing in Italy. Veron­ica is ill by the time she ar­rives at the ho­tel, but Evan stum­bles in hours later, drunk. What fol­lows is a brief por­trait of a re­la­tion­ship go­ing nowhere and the oc­ca­sions of submission that verge into hu­mil­i­a­tion.

The tit­u­lar story is the most com­pelling and mem­o­rable. Las Ve­gas for Ve­gans is a slick ac­count of a des­o­late man’s fi­nal hol­i­day to Las Ve­gas, with a thrilling con­clu­sion that does what most short fic­tion fails to: shock.

The Swarm is the sec­ond im­pres­sive col­lec­tion of sto­ries I’ve read lately from Puncher & Wattmann. Syd­ney writer Andy Kis­sane de­liv­ers 11 sto­ries, vaguely in­ter­linked, lo­cated in ur­ban mi­lieus across the coun­try.

The men and women of Kis­sane’s sto­ries grap­ple with is­sues of self-es­teem. There’s a

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