CRUSH- Stories about love

Confession: I do not often read romance but when I do I usually enjoy it.

Crush is an anthology of romance stories which centres around the concept of the word ‘Crush’. The term itself has multiple definitions, these definitions are used to divide the book into four distinct sections:

  1. An intense infatuation
  2. To cease or crumple by pressure
  3. To hug or embrace tightly
  4. A crowd of people pressed together.

In each of these sections are stories which explore the ideas of each definition. In doing this, the reader can choose a story more suited to what they feel like reading at the time.

There is a stigma surrounding romance fiction, which claims it has little to no literary merit. It’s usually dismissed as ‘chick-lit’. The stories collected in Crush demonstrate a wide range of writing styles and genres blended with romance. There is fiction which is clearly for everyone, for the LGBTQ+ community, for people who like experimental writing, and for those who prefer the literary variety. There is a diversity to this anthology which brokers an appeal to a wide audience. Romance is a part of almost everyone’s lives to some degree or another. When it comes to real life we don’t dismiss it. You don’t have to be a certain age or gender to experience it, just as you don’t have to be a certain age or gender to enjoy romance fiction, and you certainly don’t have to be ashamed of showing your support for the local, emerging artists who have contributed to this book.

Crush brings together a variety of talented writers who are both local and international. Quite a few Flinders current and past students are also featured in the anthology. Recent Hons. Graduate Simone Corletto and PhD Candidate Jess M. Miller worked with Amy T. Matthews (chair of the 2016 ‘Ain’t Love Grand’ conference in Adelaide), and Midnight Sun’s Lynette Washington to compile and edit the book. With a wide range of both local and international contributors, Crush is a must read for anyone involved in the Adelaide writing community.

With stories that verge on traditional, literary, and experimental, Crush has something to appeal to everyone. Women loving women, women loving men, men loving women, and men loving men. Relationships beginning and relationships ending. Good dates and bad dates. A wide variety of experiences tied together by the central exploration of love.

I’m not going to try and pick a favourite story in the anthology because they are all fantastic in their own way. Full of passion and wit, they offer both warmth and scepticism where it’s needed most.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, love forms a big part of our lives. The writers of Crush have interrogated this in their stories. We see people just like you and me fumbling through life searching for the thing that will make them feel valid and loved.

This is a potentially perfect book for those of you looking to escape into the world of fiction without the hassle of committing to a full novel. While romance is not normally my cup of tea, Crush provides something for everyone so why pick up a local anthology and read the both online and from local retailers.

As a special treat, selected authors will be sharing their work at The Jade on Thursday 16th November. Come along to The Jade, 142-160 Flinders Street, for a chance to meet Michelle Fairbarn, J. R. Koop, Michelle Oglivy, and C.J. McLean, hear them read, and show your support for local writers.


Words by Kayla Gaskell

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Crush is available in stores now. At the special reading event at The Jade on the 16th of November copies of Crush will be available for the special price of $25. For more information check the Facebook page.

 

 

Literary Papercuts: Reflecting on the Australian Short Story Festival

Neil Gaiman once wrote that short stories are journeys you can make to the other side of the universe and still be back in time for tea. Short stories are bold. They are shameless. They deserve to be celebrated. And on November 3-5, at the University of South Australia, they were.

A collaboration between Margaret River Press and MidnightSun Publishing, the Australian Short Story Festival (ASSF) is an annual celebration of short story writing, of the brief but poignant, the tiny and the fierce. Debuting in Perth in 2015, it approached its second programme with the tagline ‘good things come in short packages’. This turned into a vast understatement.

After a day of workshops on Friday, the festival was officially opened with an earnest and hilarious address from Tony Birch, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award  for Indigenous Writing. The good humour continued to flow right across the weekend, in discussions of genre, comedy, love and absurdity. Even in panels dealing with trauma, medical ethics, closure, and dark speculative fiction, the passion writers held for the short form was clear, and their audiences absorbed it all. Questions were asked thoughtfully and intelligently and answered in kind. Fun was had. Coffee was inhaled. Words were shared and considered and loved.

Lucy Durneen was the festival’s international guest, reading from her highly acclaimed short story collection Wild Gestures. This book shared the pop-up Dymocks table with an impressive list of names—Roanna Gonsalves’ The Permanent Resident was available to buy, as was Melanie Cheng’s Australia Day, Sean Williams’ Have Sword, Will Travel, Tony Birch’s Common People, and Lisa L. Hannett’s Bluegrass Symphony, amongst so many others. These titles were snatched up with glee and sold out fast.

Perhaps the overarching optimism of the ASSF can best be described by how it looked to the future—how it welcomed as well as reflected. Both days ended with the launch of a new collection, the first being Lynette Washington’s short story cycle Plane Tree Drive, a portrait of suburban isolation which has already garnered accolades and will be featured in an upcoming Tulpa review.   

After an empowering closing address by Rebekah Clarkson, focusing on the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery’ and the enduring attraction of short fiction, Australian literary darling Carmel Bird launched her eBook collection, The Dead Aviatrix. Reflecting on themes the festival had explored, Carmel noted that the word ‘subversion’ was a common thread, and without further ado announced that her launch would be a subversive one.

So we did what we’d expected not to do. We clung with sticky fingers to raffle tickets, and we won jelly, and when lyric sheets were passed around we didn’t think twice about belting out the Aeroplane Jelly theme in time with a live cello/trumpet duo.

And the whole time, all I could think was, what a great short story this would make.  

Because, at the end of the day, the Australian Short Story Festival—any festival, really—is designed to inspire. To provoke, to elicit, to prod everyone in the vicinity until someone picks up a pen and starts writing. I named this review ‘Literary Papercuts’ because I think that this is as good a metaphor as any—because the short story, after all, is characteristically small, humble, sometimes unnoticed. But it can hit infinitely more nerves across a shorter distance. And it can come from nowhere.

I walked away from the Australian Short Story Festival holding a notebook positively dripping with the ink of new ideas. These scribbles might become journeys to the other side of the universe. They might become bold or shameless. Subversive. They might become papercuts. Or they might stay scribbles.

But that potential—that glimmering maybe in something small—surely that is what short stories are all about.


Words by Jess M. Miller

Best of the Best: Modern Australian Short Stories

This powerful book encompassing 25 short stories written by the crème de la crème of Australian literary talent is worth a visit. The editor, Barry Oakley, was the literary editor of the Australian Newspaper between 1988 and 1997. Barry Oakley is a prolific Australian playwright, novelist and short story writer, and by-the-by was encouraged by the publishers to include his own futuristic dystopian peace at the tail end of this impressive body of writing.

 

Mr Oakley handpicked these 25 stories from a list of over 167 short stories he edited for Five Mile Press volumes. Most of these stories were written in the decade leading up to 2009, while his selection was based on the writers’ abilities to ‘replace our world with theirs’. Therefore, he avoids what Patrick White terms the ‘dreary, dun-coloured offspring of journalistic realism’ often encountered in shorter, year-specific collections. The result is a confluence of compelling dramas, magic realisms, and teased-out situations.

 

The Australian short story has long been linked to Australia’s isolated geography. This trend continues: coping with fears, grief and sudden change are certain features of this geography.

 

Mr Oakley has grouped the short stories under themes to assist the reader’s appreciation: Childhoods: a place where innocence is threatened; Fabulations: see myths and magic merge; Impositions: where difficulties are encountered; Letting Go: when strings are cut or should be; On the Margins: out of town; Desperations: when crimes are committed; Resolutions: in one’s family. Threads of racism, violence, multiculturalism, horror, and so forth, are equally stitched.

 

Matthew Condon’s The Sandfly Man is a story about the ghostly spirit of a caravan park that haunts a young boy: ‘If I closed my eyes I could see the Sandfly Man, coming for me through that swirling mist, moving slowly forward, his boots crunching on the dirt laneways.’ David Malouf’s Blacksoil Country examines a terrible chain reaction set off between two cultures: ‘The whole country had a new light over it. I had to look at it in a new way. What I saw in it now was hiding-places.’ Julie Gittus’s Driving the Inland Road shows relationships fraying on a bush-block in paradise: ‘At Gunnedah my headlights shine on a billboard beside a stone church. Have faith. He loves you. But I keep driving south into the night.’

 

Cate Kennedy’s Habit is about an elderly woman who attempts to pass through Customs with cocaine in tow. Carmel Bird’s The Hair and The Teeth tells of the emotional toll carried by a woman whose house was burgled. Tim Winton’s Commission begins when a son goes in search of his father at his mother’s request in the West Australian outback.

 

A majority of the stories’ POVs are written in the first person, some in the third person. Most of the plots tend to follow the traditional linear path, with or without flashbacks, with about a third circling the main issue. One jumbles its timeframes.

 

The themes in these stories should appeal to a wide variety of readers. They satisfy my personal tastes. There are an equal number of male and female characters albeit a slight majority of POVs are male-centric. Each story feels like an emotional canvas: when you least expect it, the porcelain breaks. It never once felt like any two stories covered the same ground. I give this collection 4.5 stars out of 5 stars. Worth reading with tea and chocolates.


Best of the Best: Modern Australian Short Stories

Edited by Barry Oakley

Stories from Tim Winton, David Malouf, Thea Astley, Cate Kennedy, Peter Goldsworthy, Margo Lanagan, and Others

RRP: A$24.95

ISBN 9781742117454 (pbk.)

320 pages

Printed 2009, 1st Edition, Five Mile Press, Victoria


Words by Dane Miller.

Dane Miller is an established writer and poet from South Australia.