Fiction review: The Best Australian Stories 2010

BestStories2010The Best Australian Stories 2010
Cate Kennedy (ed)
Black Inc.

There has been a lot of discussion over the last year about the future of Australian writing and reading: Will Twitter reduce our collective attention span to that of a demented Fox Terrier? Will the novel be murdered (again) by the blogosphere? Will the next generation of writers all drown in their own navels as predicted by Ted Genoways?

If, like me, these endless discussions have left you a little down-hearted about the future of Australian literature, I suggest you fix yourself a drink with an umbrella in, put your feet up and start reading The Best Australian Stories 2010.

This time around the collection has been put together by that clever clogs, Cate Kennedy and, my oh my, it is gorgeous. In her introduction Kennedy explains that she was able to narrow down her short list by choosing the stories that lingered with her long after they’d been read. And the proof of this – most appropriately at this time of year – is in the pudding. It is not an exaggeration to say that each and every story in this collection has left its mark on me. I read loads of books and quarterlies last year, including five issues of the always-brilliant McSweeney’s. I am pleased (and a little surprised) to say that this collection has joined Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones and McSweeney’s issue thirty-two on my list of top three reads for 2010.

I fully agree with Kennedy’s assertion that, ‘It seems a little reductive to single out stories for praise just because they are different from each other, when their other qualities are so much richer’. After reviewing the contents pages so I could pick out a few of my favourites to share with you, I realised it was pointless trying to separate them. Overall the prose is vivid and lyrical. The stories range from touching to quirky, all of them poignant. I feel disinclined to ruminate over why these stories are so damned good, rather I will encourage you to get your hands on a copy and find out for yourself.

I always find myself a little frustrated by conversation about ‘Australian’ writing and wonder if we’ll ever escape this complex that seems to hang over our heads, the kind that manifests itself in bizarre judgements that are often made of ex-pat writers. I wonder if the British spend as much time analysing the ‘British-ness’ of their writing, for example. Yet, I feel compelled to state that there is something beautifully Australian about each of these stories – something intrinsic and elusive in the characters, the place, the dialogue. Something which I found quite moving. Something which left me uncharacteristically patriotic.

If this collection is anything to go by, the future of Australian literature is very bright indeed.

Claire Zorn

Claire Zorn is a Sydney-based writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been published in various literary journals and she has a particular passion for writing young adult fiction.

More by Claire Zorn ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Related articles & Essays