A Short Story a Day for a Year: Catch Up

Three weeks in (two as a warm up and one official) to reading a short story a day I have a little catch up to do.

To date I’ve read two anthologies and have begun my third.

I started of with 10 Short Stories you Must Read this Year, which was a not for sale promotional anthology as part of the Books Alive campaign last year (an initiative of Art Council Australia).

It features the work of ten well known Australian writers, most of whom, sadly I had not read prior to picking up the anthology.

While all the stories were interesting in their own ways, the stand out was the final story of the anthology by Jack Marx, Letter from a Drunk to a Long Gone Wife. He explores a terrain which I have been long interested in, where do you  stop when you cross your moral boundaries. Just when you think Marx’s unnamed MC can’t possibly sink any lower, you are punched in the stomach – over and over again as he reveals all in a letter to his wife. Dark and brilliant writing.

Other greatly enjoyed stories were Melina Marchetta’s Twelve Minutes for the emotional landscape it explores juxtaposing the happiest of times with the most lost of times, Anita Heiss’s Manhattan Dreaming especially for it’s local references and use of colloquial Aboriginal language and Toni Jordan’s You Can Change Your Life because it sends up self development as the shallow and sensationalist activity I’ve always thought it was.

Kathy’s Lette’s Hate at First Sight reinforced to me, all the things I hate about chick-lit and why I won’t be picking up one of her books or any others of the ilk,  in the near future.

Moving on from 10 Short Stories you Must Read this Year I grabbed One Book, Many Brisbanes: an anthology of Brisbane Stories, which is the big competition all Brisbane writers aspire to win and be published in.

I have the special 150th Queensland edition from last year – where five writers were chosen as part of the competition and five well known Brisbane writers were invited to contribute. Given this mix I had high expectations of what would be between the covers.

All in all, it was a great disappointment as far as stories and Brisbane go. Many stories I felt could have occurred anywhere – just substitute suburb A for suburb B in any other Australian city. Most of the characters I really didn’t care too much about and I felt entirely lukewarm about Karen Foxlee’s winning entry Little Bird.

The stand-out stories were Adair Jones’ thought provoking 100 Points about a silent protest (the scene where he sews his lips together is chilling) and Janet McFadden’s Tunnel. McFadden’s story is all the more powerful for the fact it is a true tale with an unexpected twist at the end. She also masters and potrays the Irish accent with authenticity in the dialogue.

Along with many other Brisbane writers, I can’t understand how many of the stories ended up in the anthology. The other two thirds of my writing group both submitted stories last year which were brilliant, had fantastic twists and truly embodied the essence of Brisbane, but neither made the final cut.

I am thrilled to see, after doing a little bit of research that Beverly Fitzgerald, who I met in Kate Eltham’s short story writing class last year, secured a place in the 2010 One Book Many Brisbanes with her excellent story Sixteen Years of Beetroot. Congratulations Beverly.

At the moment I am enjoying Em Newman’s eAnthology From Dark Places. Well and truly worth the five and a bit dollars it cost to download from SmashWords. More on Em’s stories when I finish the anthology.

What has the past three weeks has shown me?

The short fiction written by ‘unknown’ and unpublished writers’ both on and off the web is of a far higher standard in many cases, than that of published and well known writers being picked up and published in the mainstream. I think we’re spoilt for choice and given most of the short fiction available on the web is free, very lucky.

Dan Powell was mad enough to join me on this reading adventure. You can find his week one wrap up here.