Margaret River Press should be mightily proud of this little production which packs quite an aesthetic punch.
Early followers of this blog would know me to be a self-confessed bibliophile bordering on bibliomaniac so those with similar leanings will understand my delight at receiving this beautiful 11 x 16cm (yes!) glossy soft-back that fits perfectly into my hand. As it nestles there, my fingers just curling over its edges, I stare at the title. Yes, I’m a sucker for a good title as well.
Things that are found in trees
& other stories
It should come as no surprise that Margaret River (south of Perth, Western Australia) would have a thriving arts scene, their slow food and wine culture being something to behold. Following the 2011 Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival in 2011 (the inaugural being held in 2009), Arts Margaret River joined forces with Margaret River Press and – voila! – the Margaret River Short Story Competition was born which led to the publication of these select entries. The collection is edited by Richard Rossiter who, together with Nicole Sinclair and Robert Wood, judged the competition.
Let’s look at the title story, Things that are found in trees. Beverly Lello paints a small town picture onto a world canvas as she connects a photograph of a dead elephant calf marooned in a tree in Sri Lanka with the narrator’s memories of her boyfriend. It’s a poignant tale that, despite our fears for the worst, keeps us hoping for an alternative.
The narrator and her Mother put up posters in their search for the young man but it is hard to see the missing Michael in the picture:
His bland, serious, photo face was just a blip between crazy clown and snorting idiot. He could crack me open and turn me inside out. It was my crazy clown I was looking for and I didn’t think anyone would recognise him from this photo. (27-28)
Catherine Moffat provides a perfect sense of time, space and place in Waiting for the Wheels to Fall Off like the city car dealer with ‘a cappuccino machine and Marie-Claire in the waiting room [where] the cars were laid out in shiny, complementary colours like the lipstick counter at David Jones.’ (102)
One of my favourite stories is Kerry Whalen’s ‘Its Her Place’. Next door neighbours Hazel and Ruby come to life through their dialogue:
‘Why do you collect things, Rube?’ Hazel had once asked.
Her friend sucked her gums, face wreathed in wrinkles. ‘It’s a hobby. Like saving stamps.’ (142-3)
Ruby’s compulsion to collect is so great that she loses sight of the line between taking something unwanted and outright theft. Twelve tiny pages and I loved Ruby. I cared about Hazel too (emotions that that can take a writer half a novel to achieve) and wondered what made her such a kind and forgiving neighbour. The ending surprised me, answered my question and left me smiling.
Rajasree Variyar gets a gong for this sentence in Men don’t cry: ‘And the nightmares that stalk my midnights bared their dark faces in the day’ (50). Tight. Superb.
The other writers in this compact treasure trove are:-
Georgina Luck, William Lane, Christine Piper, Liliane Grace, Jane Skelton, Jacqueline Winn and Bernice Barry.
I was pleased to find notes about the contributors included at the end and, whilst the Editor’s comments on the stories provided in the introduction were interesting and insightful, I would have liked to see them placed at the end also so that inadvertent spoilers or preconceived notions couldn’t influence the reader’s enjoyment. It’s a small quibble and, because of my preferences in this matter, I simply skipped the intro and read it later.
You can find out more about Things that are found in trees & other stories on the publisher’s website.
Congratulations to the winners and huge applause and cries of ‘More! More!’ toward Margaret River Press.