Suzy Garcia (ed.)
New Australian Fiction 2023
“Great writing is about the outer things that point to the inner,” a character says in Julie Koh’s “On the Road”. That captures the spirit of Kill Your Darlings’ fifth annual New Australian Fiction anthology, which collects unusual stories that reveal more on multiple readings.
The Australian literary world can be small and insular, with the same names popping up time and time again, so it’s a breath of fresh air to read work from writers being published for the first time alongside more established authors. There is a broad range of styles and perspectives here, held together by a sense of surrealism. Even the stories rooted in reality have hints of something cosmic and bizarre, and the out-and-out weird ones, such as Chris Flynn’s “Snake Island”, delight in their own irreverence.
The complexities of human relationships in an increasingly complicated time are a recurring theme. In Chris Ames’s “Charlie & Charlie & Charlie”, dating partners undergo surgery to become more like one another, blurring the lines between intimacy and personhood. In Hope Loveday’s crushingly beautiful “Souvenirs”, sex is a portal through which one can access a partner’s memories – through physical connection, difficult and painful emotional truths emerge. The ability to make oneself, to construct a story and a life, is central to Shaeden Berry’s “Lake Monsters”, vividly and distinctly Australian through tone and setting.
Other stand-outs include Madeleine Rebbechi’s “Dip”, which follows a man and his wife who meet and work at a doll factory. Rebbechi is tender with a sharp observational eye for both detail and emotion in this refined story. Novelists André Dao and Allee Richards explore similar territory to that of their books in “Reading Proust by the Beach” and “Red”, respectively. Dao’s narrator – ostensibly the same voice from Anam – continues to ponder displacement and migration, this time through the lens of a visiting cousin. In Richards’ harrowing story, a young woman becomes a mother, looking to her own mother for guidance before losing her abruptly and navigating the loss through ritual.
These stories are about life, death and all that’s in between. They are about communication and miscommunication, love and despair. There are moments of great beauty and moments of abject revulsion – some scenes in Koh’s subversive story, her own take on the tired male road-trip tale, made me shudder. This collection is varied and compelling, showcasing both the state of Australian writing and the state of the world as seen through it.
Kill Your Darlings, 192pp, $27.95
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 4, 2023 as "Australian fiction, short stories".
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