As readers of this blog would be aware, I am a huge fan of the short story and I wish we had more published in Australia. In these days of shorter attention spans and media bombardment, there is a need that could be filled perfectly by anthologies and collections of shorts.
I managed to get my hands on a copy of the 2011 Redlitzer Anthology by being persistent but it seems they are as scarce as hen’s teeth. The anthology is the result of a competition run by the Redland Libraries for emerging unpublished writers, and the Redland City Council is to be commended for its support for such a worthwhile endeavour.
I took it upon myself to review the collection (who knows…it could harbour the next Elizabeth Jolley or Patrick White ) and here are my thoughts on five of the ten works, in order of their publication within the anthology:-
Sticks and Stones by Beverley Asmus.
In our school years, most of us would have known a boy or a girl who we might have referred to as being ‘not quite right’ and I’ve read a couple of stories centred around such characters but what sets this piece apart is Asmus’s ability to get inside the character’s head. Daniel – who sees and understands his world in purely literal terms – wonders why rust tastes horrible, yet mandarins (which are the same orange colour) are sweet and juicy. Trouble comes when Daniel is compelled to stop some boys from smoking (because as both the packet and his mother inform him ‘people got cancer from smoking’).
Heartburn by Danielle Carey
Jeremy is a girl-shy church-going writer, feeling more awkward than usual in a new city. When he meets a rather strange and forward girl by the name of Lou, he projects his ideal female onto her and through a strange sort of osmosis, she reflects what he so desires.
Friends and Lovers by Trish Cation
A murder mystery vignette that might make you think twice before accepting a glass of champagne at a work party. Renee is an evil piece of work: ‘Money and men – success and sex. Put it any way you like, they were the two things that mattered most to her…’ Renee’s foil? the fool…‘sweet little Lauren’.
The Heart of the Matter: a memoir by Marci Dahlenburg
I really enjoyed this memoir piece, a kind of ‘sliding doors’ snippet about what might have been. The author takes us with her as her status as a new mother is thrown into turmoil. She becomes ‘lost in the labyrinth’ that is the hospital as she makes her way to the Paediatric Cardiology rooms to discuss how her daughter who ‘just this morning [had been] perfect’ was now less so.
How do you say it? Is Down Syndrome? Has Down Syndrome? It was the first time I’d said it. I didn’t even know how to say it properly.
While the nurse is ‘effervescent’, the baby is ‘floppy’ and the new mother is clamping one hand on top of the other trying to claw her ‘way back to reality’. My heart ached for her.
Instead of stepping blithely from the shower, grief laid me low. I was curled foetal on the tiles, screaming a mute prayer into the drain with tears and soap mingling.
The Heart of the Matter packs a devastatingly powerful punch and I hung on every word.
Always by Janice Gallen
I am a fan of one-word titles and this one immediately conjured a love story. The song of the same name played in my head as I began to read, the structure of the sentences seeming to fit the cadence perfectly. And yes, it is a love story in a very true sense. On the day of her beloved husband’s birthday, an elderly woman allows the sands of time to shift as she reminisces about the period before the war when she met the one and only love of her life. She tries to ignore the portentous pecking of a magpie at the window and shrugs off the tightness in her chest as she remembers the passionate letters they once shared and the unbreakable bonds they forged throughout their married life.
She was beside her darling, her lover, her soul mate, and since she’d met him, she hadn’t wanted to be anywhere else, either in life or death.
I loved the honesty of this piece. It pretends nothing: it is – quite simply – a love story.
In a forthcoming post, I will review the final five stories. In the meantime, if you’d like to nab yourself a copy of the 2011 Redlitzer Anthology, try contacting Redland Libraries.
2011 Redlitzer Anthology, Edited by MK Hume. Redland Libraries, Redland City Council, Aust.