Edited by Lynette Washington (MidnightSun Publishing) 2014, 240pp, RRP $24.99
Breaking Beauty is a unique and at times unsettling collection of stories which explores the theme, What is Beauty? by cracking it open to see what lies beneath. The twenty-seven talented writers who contribute to this collection all share the common experience of being postgraduates from The University of Adelaide’s Creative Writing program. Many are award winners and experienced writers of the novel. It is fascinating to read their distilled stories and be conscious of the craft involved in shaping their work.
As with any similar collection they need to be read slowly, taking time to savour each story. Short stories can be an acquired taste for some people but the effort is more than worthwhile when the material is so compelling and so well written.
The stories cover a wide diversity of subject matter, such as modern obsessions with youth and beauty, pornography, aging, the dilemmas of being pregnant, design and aesthetics, mental health, marriage and love.
Some stories focus a very unusual lens on beauty, jolting the reader to consider that beauty can be found everywhere, even in the most tragic and horrific circumstances. It is these unexpected ways of looking at life that are the most intriguing and unsettling in this collection. They reveal secret thoughts, ways of ordering our lives psychologically to maintain some control and what lies beneath seemingly ordinary people. They reveal hard truths about the inner lives of women at all stages of life and the men in those lives whether as sons, lovers or husbands. Many of the stories are uncomfortable as they touch our own lives with their familiar settings and situations. These are not people or lives in other parts of the world but clearly Australians reflecting our current cultural influences and concerns.
It is not often that the introduction to a book is one of its highlights, but in this case Brian Castro’s wonderful plea for the rediscovery of short story is a must read. His marvellous line describing a good short story as “fleeting and fleeing before one’s eyes, not allowing its full meaning to emerge because that would kill it, but letting it flit moth-like into memory” exactly sums up the special character of short stories and why they deserve to be more widely read. This stunning collection would be a wonderful place to start. I recommend it to you.
This title is available through MidnightSun Publishing. Click here to purchase your copy.
Click here to read George Kaplan’s interview with Breaking Beauty Editor Lynette Washington.
Click here to win a copy of Breaking Beauty.