I read all the time, but finding the book you can really sink into is rare, at least for me. Yoon Ha Lee is proving to be one of those authors and his recent novel Raven Stratagem was crazy wild and wonderful. Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless was another beautiful read. And some of the short story input I’ve ingested recently has also drawn me in. Loved nearly everything in Jonathan Strahan’s Fearsome Journeys, but One Last, Great Adventure by Ellen Kushner & Ysabeau Wilce along with The Dragonslayer of Merebarton by K J Parker both stood out. (Both feature ageing protagonists, and I fear that this may be a theme. Maybe I will snap out of it!)
Review of Australian Fiction continues to offer up some great stories. Particularly loved Jane Rawson’s Amy’s Twin. Rawson always manages to meld the spectacularly weird with the everyday. And a more realistic portrayal of a teenager I have yet to encounter. Its partner, The Magicians by Wayne Marshall, is a damning, but entertaining allegory. In other issues, Melina Marchetta’s When Rosie Met Jim was understated and beautifully crafted, and Elizabeth Tan’s Happy Smiling Underwear Girls Party was cynical, sad, and then completely unexpected. (Though I could not believe they were really 18-25, but what do I know about that distant past?)
And lastly, I have been most remiss in not mentioning Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #67. Some excellent speculative fiction and even a short story from me.
I am behind on my RAF reading (I am behind on life in general ), and so this will be a write up of four stories. And though I’m aware of that human bias to find connections where there may be none, I think all of the stories have a certain longing in them.
In Issue 3, Ashley Hay describes a young girl’s adventure to find water sprites. It is one of those pieces where the reader possibly understands a little more than the narrator herself. Beautifully drawn, and quite sad: I was worried for the girl’s safety at times. Its companion piece is Sean Rabin’s Old Gods. A slightly mad, or perhaps maddened, man fills his apartment with books and attempts to deal with his noisy neighbours. It is a paean to both reading and books. Those who cherish a peaceful spot to read will enjoy the protagonist’s unintended revenge.
Two Peter Carey short story winners feature in Issue 4. Catherine Padmore’s To Whom it May Concern describes a woman’s reaction to an unexpected email. Her history and her memories are beautifully evoked. But the story that has stayed with me the longest is Cameron Weston’s. It is, I am glad to say, a story in which nothing much happens except that a writer falls a little in love with a pigeon. Writing can be a type of yearning, and I think Weston captures that here.
And no matter that I find myself without the time for yearning, or longing, or getting much done at all from the list of things I really want to do. There has been time for a little reading. And that is a blessing in itself.
There are no super powers in the latest Review of Australian Fiction, but each of the main characters possess an extraordinary ability.
Do you remember Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume? What if the protagonist had been somewhat less psychopathic (though as completely self-obsessed) and had become trapped in the kind of corporate dullness that ruins many men? And what if you had got to hear from his wife? Equally as gifted, but in a very different way. This is the scenario that underpins Anna Tambour and Simon Brown’s Joy. I don’t think it gives away too much to say this is not a happy marriage.
But Laura E. Goodin has a happier view of human nature. She imagines a very wet Australia in Water Cools Not Love. This is a story set around cricket and climate change and chaos theory, and it is, believe it or not, a very funny piece. I’m glad to see the phrase, ‘Yeah, no, I’m not real pleased,’ will persistent into Australia’s extraordinarily wet future.
I’m just delighted to be receiving one of the Review of Australian Fiction’s Reading Fellowships. And it started a few days ago with Volume 22 and two wonderful stories by Angela Slatter and Angie Rega. Two fantasy stories, no less.
Angela Slatter’s A Little Mermaid, in Passing tells the well known Little Mermaid story from the point of view of the sea witch. We learn about the way in which she views the young women who come to her. She laments their attitude, the way in which they are prepared to give up so much for men. I empathised. But then Slatter turns the tale a little, and dives into the complicated and sometimes cruel relationship between mother and daughter, and between sister and sister.
Angie Rega’s story, The Fairy Midwife, is also about the relationship between women. This time, a woman yearning for a child and a grotesque and mercurial fairy midwife. The tale is full of sorrow, desperation, and revenge. The ingredients in the best of stories.
Thank you RAF! I loved them both.