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Collected Short Fiction by Gerald Murnane

Collected Short Fiction (2018)

by Gerald Murnane

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Stories from a mind-bending Australian master, "a genius on the level of Beckett" (Teju Cole) Never before available to readers in this hemisphere, these stories--originally published from 1985 to 2012--offer an irresistible compendium of the work of one of contemporary fiction's greatest magicians. While the Australian master Gerald Murnane's reputation rests largely on his longer works of fiction, his short stories stand among the most brilliant and idiosyncratic uses of the form since Borges, Beckett, and Nabokov. Brutal, comic, obscene, and crystalline,Stream System runs from the haunting "Land Deal," which imagines the colonization of Australia and the ultimate vengeance of its indigenous people as a series of nested dreams; to "Finger Web," which tells a quietly terrifying, fractal tale of the scars of war and the roots of misogyny; to "The Interior of Gaaldine," which finds its anxious protagonist stranded beyond the limits of fiction itself. No one else writes like Murnane, and there are few other authors alive still capable of changing how--and why--we read.… (more)



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Collected Short Fiction offers an entrée to Gerald Murnane's fiction for the newbie. I've been reading his books for years now, and am a confirmed enthusiast only too delighted by his more recent prominence both here in Australia and overseas. But I'm no closer to 'understanding' Murnane, only more comfortable with the effect his writing has on me.

(This is what I wrote in a comment on my post about The Plains, back in 2009 when I was reading Inland:
I keep going backwards and forwards and re-reading…and then spinning off with thoughts and ideas of my own that seem to be couched in his kind of circular sentences, as if he has colonised my mind. It is a bizarre experience to read something like this, floundering around trying to work out what’s happening even though it seems unlikely that anything is actually happening.
These days I don't flounder, I surf along whatever wave I can catch. And yes, it's exhilarating.)

The blurb for Collected Short Fiction has this to say:
This volume brings together Gerald Murnane’s shorter works of fiction, most of which have been out of print for the past twenty five years. They include such masterpieces as ‘When the Mice Failed to Arrive’, ‘Stream System’, ‘First Love’, ‘Emerald Blue’, and ‘The Interior of Gaaldine’, a story which holds the key to the long break in Murnane’s career, and points the way towards his later works, from Barley Patch to Border Districts. Much is made of Murnane’s distinctive and elaborate style as a writer, but there is no one to match him in his sensitive portraits of family members – parents, uncles and aunts, and particularly children – and in his probing of situations which contain anxiety and embarrassment, shame or delight.
When the Mice Failed to Arrive' was originally published in the Autumn 1989 edition of a periodical called 'Sport' and then in Velvet Waters (McPhee Gribble 1990). The excruciating depiction of the narrator's childhood anxiety spills into what seems to be a deeply personal account of parental failings and guilty memories from a teaching career. And it's true: even if you're Gerald Murnane and perhaps not temperamentally suited to teaching, it's a career that's like parenthood, it's filled with guilt about the times you failed to meet a need, or weren't prepared, or you lost your temper, or let a child down when they needed you most. Those times do haunt teachers who care...

Guilt also seeps into 'Stream System' which was first published in The Age Monthly Review 8, no 9, December 1988-January 1989:
When my brother first went to school I used to hide from him in the schoolground. I did not want my brother to speak to me in his strange speech. I did not want my friends to hear my brother and then ask me why he spoke strangely. During the rest of my childhood and until I left my parents' house, I tried never to be seen with my brother, If I could not avoid travelling on the same train with my brother I would order him to sit in a different compartment from mine. If I could not avoid walking in the street with my brother I would order him not to look in my direction and not to speak to me.

When my brother first went to school my mother said that he was no different from any other boy but in later years my mother would admit that my brother was a little backward.

My brother died when he was forty-three years old and I was forty-six. My brother never married. Many people came to my brother's funeral, but none of those people had ever been a friend to my brother. I was certainly never a friend to my brother. On the day before my brother died I understood for the first time that no one had ever been a friend to my brother. (p.39)

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2019/02/10/collected-short-fiction-by-gerald-murnane/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Feb 9, 2019 |
Despite the Australian setting, I couldn't get into these stories. I remember my first attempt at Patrick White. Voss is still a mystery to me. Then I discovered his other novels, (The Aunt's Story, The Solid Mandala, The Twyburn Affair) and found White much more engaging. Maybe I need to do the same with Murnane if he is to win the Nobel Prize! ( )
  TedWitham | May 28, 2018 |
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