Short Stories

Good quality short stories make for excellent supplementary texts and there are some fine collections around. Here are a few to dip into.

The Penguin Book of the Road (edited by Delia Falconer, 2008): This Australian collection includes both classic and contemporary stories, and excerpts from larger works. In Across the Plains, Over the Mountains and Down to the Sea by Frank Moorhouse, a man recounts to his therapist the memory of a special time spent with a former lover. Landscape is a vital part of this story which evokes a sense of melancholy. Much anthologised, you will also find this story in The Picador Book of the Beach (ed. Drewe, 1995) and The Penguin Book of the Beach (ed. Drewe, 2006). All three collections are easy to find in libraries and offer a wide choice of good stories (the second and third including writers from many countries, including Australia). Across the Plains… featured on ABC RN’s Sunday Story on 2nd August 2009 and will be available as audio for four weeks from then.

The Rip by Robert Drewe (2008): This collection by a master of the form includes The Lap Pool, about a self made man now languishing alone in his luxury Queensland home whilst awaiting trial on tax charges. His wife and children have returned to Sydney. He’s a nice guy so how did he end up in this mess? (Read The Lap Pool online) In The Cartoonist a teenager is working hard to settle in to a new town and school, courtesy of his mother choosing to leave her marriage and run off to the north coast with him in tow. He’s an accommodating kid, but we all have our limits. All the stories in this collection are engaging narratives with ample ideas to relate to belonging and good technique to analyse.

The Boat by Nam Le (2008): This young Vietnamese Australian has had a stunning debut with this book. Each fairly long story is a whole universe unto itself. The title story directly relates to the author’s family experience of escaping Vietnam in the seventies. Others are set in a world of drug lords and violence in Colombia, the countryside beyond Hiroshima just before the atomic bomb hits, and a couple are in modern day New York. Halflead Bay is set in a Victorian seaside town as a teenage boy deals with his mother slowly dying, falling in love for the first time and confronting violence. This is a very assured collection of stories, each very much worth getting your teeth into.

The Turning by Tim Winton (2004): This beautiful collection of  linked stories is a real Winton primer. He has been writing about a Western Australian coastal town called Angelus (or something like it) for many years – from Lockie Leonard days to this year’s Miles Franklin Award winning Breath. Small Mercies is one of my favourites of this collection. It tells of a man who returns to his home town with his young son after the death of his wife. The reader pieces together what is told and what only hinted at about Peter’s past in this town which he thought he had left for good.