Griffith Review 34: The Annual Fiction Edition

The third annual fiction edition of Griffith REVIEW exemplifies why this journal is argued to be one of the best Australian quarterly publications. Boasting a staggering number of Australia’s finest writers of short fiction, such as Chris Womersley, Georgia Blain, Benjamin Law and Amy Espeseth, this edition, like its two antecedents, is of a high, undoubtedly literary calibre.

For this edition, writers were asked to ‘consider the idea of islands – physical and metaphorical’. Stories such as Craig Cliff’s ‘Offshore Service’ – where coal ships, stranded off-coast, are the ‘temporary islands’ in focus – present ingenious, abstract interpretations of this theme. However, some stories seem forced – bent out of shape to accommodate this directive. Favel Parrett’s ‘No Man is an Island’ is an example; the contrived title blighting the nuances of an otherwise delicately constructed narrative of a child’s death; force-feeding the reader a singular meaning.

As might be expected with an island motif, many of these stories consider solitude and separation, and by extension, abandonment and loss. Melancholia pervades the collection, but, fortunately, it engrosses rather than alienates. Georgia Blain’s ‘Enlarged + Heart + Child’ is a compelling representation of the fear felt by a parent with a child in hospital, and Josephine Rowe’s ‘Tank’, a character-driven contemplation of emotional estrangement, is testament to the power of suggestion. There are brighter, more literal examinations of the islanded self – the Pacific features regularly, as do issues of native land titles – and humorous stories such as newcomer Kate Lahey’s ‘The Big One-Eyed Dork’ offer some needed levity. Accompanying memoir and poetry also do much to refresh the reader.

This is a particularly gratifying edition of Griffith REVIEW. While it would have been good to read more stories from new and emerging authors (the majority have substantial publication records) the craftsmanship and creativity presented throughout more than make up for this imbalance. Griffith REVIEW 34 is short fiction writing at its best.

Hannah Kent is Deputy Editor of

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