Sam van Zweden



cate kennedy

Review: Best Australian Stories 2010

The Best Australian Stories 2010, edited by Cate Kennedy
Black Inc
Publication Date: November 2010
ISBN: 9781863954952
RRP: $29.95

One of the chief advantages of The Best Australian Stories 2010 is that it shows that Australian writing is as varied as Australia’s population, as changeable as its weather and landscape.  This collection shows that Australian literature remains as enigmatic and indefinable as ever. Its content suggests that the cosmopolitanism that in the past has had amazing writers like Christina Stead shunned from the Australian fold, is now well and truly embraced along-side more colonial visions of cattle stations and bushfires, and that any effort to define “Australian writing” would necessarily involve all of these things.

The Best Australian Stories 2010 is comprised of twenty-nine short stories, both previously published and not before printed, from authors both well-established and emerging. Kennedy has struck an admirable balance between male and female authors without it feeling like a political exercise, and much thought has obviously gone into pacing the collection. While reading it’s hard not to say, “Just one more!” because of this attention to detail.

It’s also hard not to connect the stories to one another, as Kennedy’s ability to bring well-suited stories into a collection means that they gesture far beyond themselves into the other stories in the collection, but also into Australian writing as a whole.

While there are stories in here, such as Joanne Riccioni’s ‘Can’t Take the Country Out of the Boy’, and Fiona McFarlane’s ‘The Movie People’ that are concerned with more traditional Australian landscape and colonial values, other stories like Nam Le’s ‘The Yarra’ and Sherryl Clark’s ‘To The Other Side of the World’ speak to a very modern, very high-pressure metropolitan side of Australia. All the stories in this book carry notes of a haunting and tense Australia; its inhabitants torn between yearning to belong and to run. And while the stories in this collection can be broadly connected via themes, it is refreshing to see just how diverse the concerns of these stories are.

Chris Womersley’s ‘The Age of Terror’ actually made me yell. Nam Le’s ‘The Yarra’ made me yell and want to throw the book at something because it was so true, down to his depiction of a Melbourne which I could recognize down to the river bend. Ryan O’Neill’s ‘The Eunuch in the Harem’ is impressive and original and hilarious. Paddy O’Reilley’s story is one that stood out to me as hauntingly Australian. Marcus Clarke once typified Australian landscape as “weird melancholy” and many of the stories truly had that feel – Paddy O’Reilley brings it to suburbia.

By the end of The Best Australian Stories 2010, you feel like you know what Australian writing is about, and get an idea of some of what’s happening in our literary journals, but the collection is by no means tiresome – the diversity between these covers is more than admirable.

The Best Australian Stories 2010 is a collection that we can be proud of, and one whose attention to fine form and original ideas will leave you well and truly sated.




This review appeared in the first 2011 edition of RMIT’s magazine Catalyst.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

“I wonder what secrets she keeps buried beneath her blouse. I want to grab her and tell her about mine – the one lurking beneath my shirt – how I used to walk like an ape because of the rashes, an unfortunate consequence of the aluminium-rich roll-on the doctor prescribed for my hyperhidrosis.”
From David Kelly’s Armadillo in “The Best Australian Stories 2010”, ed. Cate Kennedy. p29.

Some Solid Advice

I’m a fan of Cate Kennedy. She’s a great writer, a wonderful editor (hey, Christmas is coming up! “The Best Australian…”? Anyone?), and I especially enjoy reading her columns and journal articles.

Having read some of her work before, I know that Cate Kennedy is a major proponent of turning the damn internet off when you’re working. She tells some harsh truths, she honestly gets to the crux of the problem, whether it’s time-wasting, or lying to yourself about what your work really is or wants to be…

Yesterday on The Inc. Blot (the Black Inc blog), Cate wrote her top ten tips for writers. Usually these lists are pretty gimmicky, or they take the piss. Mark Twain’s advice, “Use good grammar” and a very helpful BBC article telling me to “Get an agent!” are two such articles.

Cate’s list, however, is true to her usual form. She cuts through the crap, and gives real advice which talks to the real problems most writers face. Thinking about fame when what you need to do first is find somewhere to sit and write. Mucking around on Youtube. Self-editing before anything even reaches that page. Most importantly, just get the job done. Cate gives advice that helps you do that.

So head on over to The Inc. Blot and give her article a read.

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