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The Sleepers Almanac 2007: The Family Affair

Various


"When you meet her, you will notice her absence in every room afterwards "

Reviewed by Petra Fromm

There’s been a rumour doing the rounds over the past few years: the short story is dead – last seen floating belly-up somewhere off the Bondi coastline. It seems this untimely death occurred (along with sideburns and Moselle) sometime in the 70s or 80s. Thankfully, not everyone pays attention to rumour, for example, the editors of Sleepers Almanac 2007: The Family Affair. Zoe Dattner, (‘Of all the things this world is running out of, I can quite confidently tell you, good writing’s not one of them’) and Louise Swinn (‘stories change lives because our lives are stories’) seem determined to prove rumour not only misguided, but blatantly slanderous. 

The Family Affair is Sleepers’ third almanac, and while ‘family’ is the guiding concept, the forty authors represented here have often taken very different approaches. After all, families are complicated, many-headed beasts, and for some, family, the family, is as real as the brick-veneer home in which they grew up, while others offer a more ambiguous interpretation of what ‘family’ might mean. The diversity makes for an interesting collection. 

In the quirky All the old gods, Scott McDermott considers employment options for redundant deities, while Steven Amsterdam’s poignant, The theft that got me here, is set in an all too believable future. Kate Holden’s Incunabula begins with a dream, and the lyrical, dreamlike quality of the prose carries the narrative through to a grim conclusion. Emmett Stinson’s Great extinctions in history, blurs the line between reality and the surreal, while Andy Kissane’s In my arms, and Karen Hitchcock’s Weightlessness successfully walk the fine line between pathos and sentimentality. But on the whole, it is often the simple stories, simply told, that are the most effective. Davina Bell’s In that crowded minute, that’s where it all began, Janice Ryan’s Alien worlds, and Patrick Cullen’s The easy way out, have the honesty and authenticity that for me, epitomise good writing.

If three times is a charm then it seems The Sleepers Almanac is here to stay. Once again, Arts Victoria has assisted Sleepers by funding the voices of some of our lesser-known Australian writers. And once again, the light-hearted editors have included sketches, comics, and the odd list for readers to fill in between stories (design your own faith, songs that changed YOUR life). There’s even a page to write a letter to a pet. This edition is handsomely presented, and John Rydie’s gorgeous cover-art will make it hard to miss. So, if you see it on a shelf, pick it up, buy it, lend it to your friends. You could even lend it to someone in your family.


(This review was first published in Wet Ink Magazine.)


Petra Fromm is a non-fiction editor and reviewer for Wet Ink: the magazine of new writing. She lives in South Australia with her partner, Daniel, and two Oriental cats. Her current project is a novel, Soldiers' Daughters Don’t Cry, written for the PhD in Creative Writing at Adelaide University.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
PublisherSleepers Publishing

Publication Date: 2007

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?No

Edited by: Zoe Dattner and Louise Swinn

Authors include:   Steven Amsterdam, Tony Birch, Jo Bowers, Eric Dando, Karen Hitchcock, Alana Kelsall, Pierz Newton-John, Mileta Rien, Janice Ryan, Emmett Stinson and Alli Barnard.

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What other reviewers thought:

Sydney Morning Herald