The Best Australian Poems, Essays and Stories
Edited by Cate Kennedy, John Tranter and Ramona Koval, Black Inc.
These “bests” kept my reading fires burning in an uncharacteristically cool month.
They gave me hours of intrigue but I’ll cut to the chase here by commenting only on the best of the best. There’s one codicil: You should really read the books and choose your own favourites!
Best story — Louis Nowra’s “The Index Cards” has a clever structure for quite a creepy suburban tale.
Honourable mention goes to Karen Hitchcock’s “Forging Friendship” whose jilted, bitter narrator finds Facebook is making her sick and that on EBay there are “seventy-four thousand, five hundred and thirty-one dresses listed for sale.
“EBay. Facebook. Twitter and chat. Send, comment, respond and reply. I’ll buy stuff I wouldn’t touch. I’ll comment on your post though I wouldn’t cross the street to say hello. Things that are not acts will pretend to be acts; they will take the place of acts. I will search and I will trawl and I will neither catch you nor be caught.”
Best essay — “Fairy Death” by Gillian Mears offers a moving and extremely personal insight into how Multiple Sclerosis can rob a person of physical and sexual vitality. Vincent L. Long’s photo of Mears, reed thin and naked, from the Red Balloon Project that accompanies the piece is truly startling.
Australian author and critic Delia Falconer rightly said in the Weekend Australian in December 2011 that this essay was “worth a handful of novels”.
Honourable mention goes to “The Trial of Mary Bale” by M. J. Hyland. This disturbing essay is about a woman in theUKwho was captured on CCTV dumping a live cat into a wheelie bin. The footage went viral and, as Hyland puts it, Mary Bale’s “trial by internet and social media begins”.
That Mary Bale is suffering from depression and her father is terminally ill at the time she has put the cat in the bin seems to draw no sympathy from those who send her death threats and hate mail or from the reporters that camp outside her house and on her mother’s steps.
Best poem — “George Perec inBrisbane” by Thomas Shapcott draws a clever comparison between the primacy of humanity inParisand insects inBrisbane. “January” by Jaya Savige evokes a mortality tale over miso soup.
Best opening lines of a poem were from “5.30 a.m.” by Helen Lindstrom. It’s 5.30 a.m./God and I stand/ on the verandah,/I’m surprised to see/ him smoking a pipe./‘I don’t do the drawback,’ he says.
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