An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life

Paul Dalla Rosa

An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life
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An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life

Paul Dalla Rosa

Whether working in food service or in high-end retail, lit by a laptop in a sex chat or by the camera of an acclaimed film director, sharing a dangerous apartment in the city, a rooming house in China or a vacation rental in Mallorca, the protagonists of the ten stories comprising Paul Dalla Rosa’s debut collection, An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life, navigate the spaces between aspiration and delusion, ambition and aimlessness, the curated profile and the unreliable body.

By turns unsparing and tender, Dalla Rosa explores our lives in late-stage capitalism, where globalisation and its false promises of connectivity and equity leave us all further alienated and disenfranchised. His stories are small masterpieces of regret, futility and tenderness, dripping with acuity, irony and wit.

Like his acclaimed contemporary Ottessa Moshfegh and the legendary Lucia Berlin, Dalla Rosa is a masterful observer and unflinching eviscerator of our ugly, beautiful attempts at finding meaning in an ugly, beautiful world.

‘Exciting … thrilling, exhilarating’ - Christos Tsiolkas, author of Seven and a Half

‘Hilarious, brutal, warm and tender’ - Abigail Ulman, author of Hot Little Hands

A knockout.‘ - Chelsea Hodson, author of Tonight I’m Someone Else

'How can these stories be so funny, dazzling, deep and dark?’ - Ronnie Scott, author of The Adversary


I hadn’t heard of Paul Dalla Rosa but then I noticed pre-orders for his debut, An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life, coming in. Not long after, at one of the first post-Covid events in town, I heard him read from this collection. He read the story ‘Contact’, about a woman who takes a job in a call centre; she used to write poems, now she needs to pay her rent. The work she does is anonymous; her employers hide behind doublespeak; she has an anonymous relationship with a man in her building. Her work and her life dry up, but she says to herself, ‘I have an exciting and vivid inner life’. The story is sadly comic and as Paul read from it, the audience was drawn in closer, laughing and squirming.

The stories here are largely about work, alienation and how people relate to each other in the 21st century. In the story ‘Comme’, the young narrator manages a branch of an exclusive and very expensive Japanese boutique. He’s been told that the founder is visiting Australia and may visit the shop; he wants so much to impress her, to show her that he admires her expensive clothes that no one would actually ever wear, that he’s in on the game persuading people to buy them. In another story, a hip young couple struggle to make their hip New York lifestyle work. They take in a tenant to help pay the rent, but their cat starts terrorising the tenant. In another story, a young writer gets into an exclusive Master of Fine Arts course for writing. During the semester break, his trans friend Cyndi pays him to take photos of her growing breasts as she drinks coffee and eats stale croissants; since she started the hormone treatment, they grow every day. She reminds him of Audrey Hepburn.

These stories are wildly inventive and depict a society that is often cruel and narcissistic; they are also darkly funny and sometimes confronting. Dalla Rosa’s stories have been picked up internationally and this collection will be published in the UK by Serpent’s Tail. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from this exciting local writer.

Mark Rubbo is the managing director of Readings

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