Review: Page Seventeen Issue Eleven

p17issue11coverPage Seventeen returns from its hiatus with its eleventh issue and a new, glossier format. There’s clear emphasis on the new, as editor Beau Hillier invites you to abandon stuffy old front-to-back linear reading in favour of a novel pathway system. (Think those Choose Your Own Adventure books you read as a child.) This small touch personalises the reading experience, allowing you to shape the overarching narrative in a small way.

But, of course, what you really want to know about are the stories. Kathy George’s opener ‘Blessed are the cracked …’ takes a lateral look at the nature of creativity, demonstrating the sometimes obtuse ways artists find inspiration. (For more on this topic, check out the Busybird website, where Page Seventeen contributors were invited to share their processes or anecdotes which have inspired their work. Mine is reproduced on this blog here.)

In ‘A step back in time’, James May takes a soul-searching trip back to his hometown of Adelaide, seeking answers, catharsis and a new perspective. This was a visceral piece, full of grit and longing.

With ‘Protest’, Beverley Lello crafts an exquisite literary tale about acceptance and marital dissonance. Meanwhile, Lois Murphy’s standout ‘Mosquito bites’ tells a ripping yarn about a likeable-but-downtrodden young man with an addition to his already-lengthy list of mistakes: allowing his loved ones to believe he is dead. The story starts with a memorable one-two punch – ‘We were pretty pissed off when my cousin showed up at his own funeral. All that effort, those wasted tears.’ – and takes several unforeseen turns, with the cousin cutting an unexpectedly tragic figure.

In ‘Onshore, offshore, unsure’, Eril Riley uses poetic language to tell of one family’s traumatic struggle for asylum. Hemmed in body-to-body with other survivors, the protagonist waxes philosophical while enduring discomforts like urinating in a battered metal drum. This story made me appreciate the freedom and luxuries we take for granted.

Other highlights include Joshua Coldwell’s ‘Swan song’, a black comedy about a young man’s obsession to uphold the family legacy (by imparting witty or memorable last words), and Geraldine Borella’s ‘Achilles and the maple leaf’, a tale of unlikely friendship, and a touching reminder that sometimes the universe smiles upon us, bringing people into our lives precisely when we need them.

Warwick Sprawson continues to impress with ‘Spin’, a tension-filled casino story about a dealer with a sizeable (ahem) chip on his shoulder.

There’s also a veritable smorgasbord of poetry – much of it esoteric, all of it thought-provoking. I’ve never had much of an ear for poetry, but particularly enjoyed Katherine E Seppings’ quiet, assured ‘Seville’; Paul South’s perplexing ‘No sense’; and Jude Aquilina’s ‘Love suffers’, which begins:

Love suffers from a plague of clichés.
It claims to gleam like a bolt
of silken sun through winter cloud
but actually, it’s sharp and quick
like a tattooing needle.

Page Seventeen Issue Eleven is available for purchase here.

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Review: ‘The Children’s Bach’

ImageThe Children’s Bach is the kind of book I wish I’d written. It’s taut, self-assured and barrels along without an inch of hand-holding. Continue reading

Review: ‘Doorway’

Image‘Doorway’ is a short story about grief. It features faintly supernatural elements, and has great pacing and characterisation.

There are three things in particular that I liked about this story:

  1. That it explored what it’s like to lose your family, or a parental figure. Even as an adult there is consolation in having parents (or aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc) as a safety net. When Google can’t answer my question, my parents are the next logical step. Morbid as it may be, I’ve often wondered (or more aptly, fretted) about what it would be like if this suddenly ceased to exist. Through Amy’s loss of her Aunt Zara, ‘Doorway’ explores this issue in a substantial and satisfying manner.
  2. The surprise developments that occur later on. Just when I thought I had these characters pegged, things started shifting. For a story about loss, there’s a real buoyancy to the narrative. Aunt Zara, in particular, brought a lot of humour.
  3. The economy of the prose. A lot of ground gets covered in this story, but you wouldn’t know it by its brevity. Zigomanis has a talent for implying where others would overstate. The relationships Amy has with her aunt and husband felt truthful and full of nuance.

I heartily recommend ‘Doorway’, and look forward to reading more by Les Zigomanis.

Review: ‘Little White Slips’

ImageI don’t suppose I’m the target audience for this book, Little White Slips, a short story collection that follows the lives of various fractured female characters. Although there was plenty to relate to, the overall impression this gave me was like eavesdropping on the salacious or frivolous (depending on the story) secrets of some female patrons in the corner of a cafe. Continue reading