Diverse stories hint at breadth of talent
new boyfriend, who is Chinese, is taken to the family farm in the conservative rural hinterland. It is a not a subtle account, and the smallminded values couched in a rough humour and gruff facades are a familiar presence in many Australian towns.
Muse, which was included in Earthly Delights, Griffith Review’s Novella Project IV, is the best story in the collection. It is a gentle depiction of ageing and loss, the latter a recurring These two books capture a profound diversity theme. These characters are wonderfully in contemporary Australian short-story writhuman, and the story is beautifully carved. It is ing. Seven Stories is a collection of short stories also a gentle depiction of the sweet sexual refrom Tasmanian writers published by the eluawakening of an old man. It is considerably sive Dewhurst Jennings Institute. The stories longer than the others and features more satisare set around the world, the seven writers confying character development. nected only by dint of being Tasmanian. In The subject matter and styles in Seven Stocontrast, the slow-burn stories in Melanie ries vary wildly. The Shy Birds by Emma L. WaCheng’s Australia Day speak of middle Austraters exhibits an acute suspenseful realism in lia. They are an examination of which she takes the reader some quiet lives in contemporalongside a couple walking on ary Melbourne. an east coast beach. They meet
The pieces in Seven Stories an old fellow who offers to vary in voice and style and show them a nest, a beautiful roam widely. Some are expern nest. Is he genuinely friendly or imental, some blunt, some m malevolent? beautiful. This is writing from a The tension ebbs and flows vastly different island than the with one Peter Conrad fled with wf from a the perfect sound wf foreshadowing,of gunshots such critical alacrity in 1968 ( (unrelated) to the nervous “pipand this collection celebrates a pipping” strong writing community. b p birds. pbof the black and white
This is modern Tasmania, Susie Greenhill was awarded there are no hackneyed repret the 2016 Richell Prize for her sentations of the deepest wilderness, no fetishisation of the mmb back manuscriptwith her The Clinking.delicate prose,She is wild gothic island. These have this time in a story that speaks long been traits in work coming from Tasof love and loss in a European war zone. If that mania, with the landscape as a character. Next seems like too big a theme for a short story, to the realism of Cheng’s dusty suburbs, Seven Greenhill handles it confidently and with Stories is effulgent. It also contains some of the beautiful use of language, especially when demost exhilarating voices in contemporary scribing the sea and waterways. literature in Australia. The Chaos of Life Beyond Death in the Out
Without exception these stories transcend back, by Adam Ouston, is a rambunctious and the fads and fashions of Australian literature, exhilarating story of a man hitchhiking in the which, from an island perspecoutback, picked up by a zombie tive can seem like a banal Sydf filmmaking crew that he ney-Melbourne banter. Seven e eventually murders. Both Tasade Storiesof writing houses in the Tasmania.genius mmmbrigmentionmanianm of stories, horizontal with scrub. nary a
Cheng, on the other hand, Also included is Michael offers up the unrelenting burbs. Blake’s Donny and Bucket on She cracks open the characters the Treeless Plain, which comlives.of She pptteases living out undramaticthe ramifipletes t the anthology. It is about people
two teenage boys making the cations and ripples emanating breakb from their home town, from decisions big and small. Ceduna — making a run for it. Her attention to detail carries It is a liminal story, one that these stories, along with the ocdoes not cover a journey but a casional fine turn of phrase, rodecision. Completing the seven bust dialogue and reasonably are Ruairi Murphy, Robbie Ardeveloped characters. While n nott, who won the 2014 Scribe Seven Stories has a lushness, N Nonfiction Prize, and Ben WalCheng’s collection is all suburban aridity. ter, an increasingly recognised writer of poetry
Australia Day contains some marvellous and prose, as well as the editor of this collection dexterity with language and a deft use of deand the brains behind the Dewhurst Jennings scription: the unease felt about “wads of dollars Institute. The institute consisted of occasional pressed deep into waiting palms”, or “Celtic gatherings of writers to share ideas. Invitations skin-papery stiff destined to sprout cancers like were by postcard only. tiny horns”, or “the computer expires with a Different parts of the short-story spectrum melodious sigh”. are represented by these two collections.
The human manifestation of grief in the Cheng’s Australia Day, with its clear, somestory Things That Grow is delicately drawn. It’s times crystalline prose offers up the mundane about a recently bereaved widow who discovand the middlebrow, which is not always a bad ers herself pregnant and it is a visceral descripthing. The stories are tightly constructed with tion of the experience of loss. The character the company of some well-drawn characters, has withdrawn from the world, from her fambut they are all in the same key. ily; she is carrying the feeling that death often Seven Stories was described by Richard brings to the living, one of purposelessness. Flanagan at its recent launch in Hobart as “a
Cheng’s realism and straightforward prose significant book in Tasmanian letters”. This also reveal the ugliness and crassness of Ausunderstates the importance of these writers in tralian behaviour, and so much of what the exthe national short story conversation. At least pression Australia Day increasingly, and three of them have novels with major Austraironically, connotes: a racism. Racism shoots lian publishers. This is a pivotal moment in through these stories casually and sharply. Tasmanian letters.
In the titular story racism hovers throughout, like a dog snarling in the background. The is a writer and editor.