Edited by Gillian Polack

Eneit Press (2010)

ISBN: 9780980691122

Reviewed by Joanna Kasper, July 2010

This anthology is a collection of stories from Australian authors, all talking about the baggage that people carry around with them. Each author has taken a different tack at the idea but ended up with a collection that holds together and reads as a complete experience.

When I heard about this anthology, my first thoughts were about the immigrant experience. I was expecting that most of the stories would be about the baggage that others brought to Australia. It was good to see that in amongst these stories there are also stories relating to the indigenous experience in Australia because that is just another part of the baggage that we, as Australians, all carry with us.

Many anthologies include a short piece from the author, discussing their story, and I have seen them put in many places throughout the finished book. Polack has left all these to the end, leaving each story to be read on its own merits. I found it interesting how often I took something completely different away from a story than what the author was thinking when they wrote it.

“Vision Splendid” (K.J. Bishop) – Thinking you have seen spaceships as a schoolgirl doesn’t necessarily mean your life will be interesting. I felt this was rather more a character study than an actual story, but it is very well drawn. The descriptions of an Australian bush summer are very evocative and reminded me of my own childhood summers.

“Telescope” (Jack Dann) –  Memories of a primitive past. I realised after reading Dann’s description of the poem that I didn’t get it at all. I enjoyed reading it though.

“Hive of Glass” (Kaaron Warren) – This story enthralled me. At times gross, sad, horrifying and finally peaceful. No-one should have more than their fair share of ghosts.

“Kunmanara – Somebody Somebody” (Yaritji Green) – A fascinating look at how different cultures deal with death and the conflicts that can arise when they clash. An enjoyable story with a good resolution.

“Manifest Destiny” (Janeen Webb) – The horrifying moment when the reader realises that the creature which has been caught is not a kangaroo but an aboriginal woman is just the beginning. So representative of the attitudes of the early settlers and it makes the reader very grateful that we have moved on from there, even if there is yet further to go.

“Albert and Victoria / Slow Dreams” (Lucy Sussex) – A story of a living glacier and the humans who live around it. Sussex has managed to evoke the atmosphere of a tourist town and its local characters in a short story that you’ll want to read under a warm blanket.

“Macreadie V The Love Machine” (Jennifer Fallon) – The very idea of artificial intelligence is a bit scary for many people. Therefore the idea of using it in sex toys to help people acclimate to the idea is inspired. The ending is guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine … a typical Fallon finish.

“A Pearling Tale” (Maxine McArthur) – A neat little story emphasising that respect for all the gods of the sea is a good thing for sea-going folk to remember.

“Acception” (Tessa Kum) – A frighteningly possible future for our multicultural society, given the right technology. After reading this story I went to bed. And had nightmares about zombies. This Kum woman is good!

“An Ear for Home” (Laura E. Goodin) –  Homesickness is a powerful emotion, easily triggered by smells and tastes. Wherever you’re from, the longing for home can be unbearable, but eventually you have to make peace with where you are. And if that new home includes Tim Tams, that shouldn’t be too hard. A touching story.

“Home Turf” (Deborah Biancotti) – A spooky little story. Homeless people being taken from the streets of Sydney to fight in an endless, pointless war. Up to Biancotti’s usual high standards.

“Archives, space, shame, love” (Monica Carroll) – Who knew being an archivist could be so boring, yet have so many possibilities? Having spent some time in the National Archives in Brisbane, this story really struck a chord with me, most enjoyable.

“Welcome, farewell” (Simon Brown) – My first thought when reading the opening paragraphs of this story was that it was going to be a horror story with dead babies, spirits, etc. But it wasn’t, it was about a woman making her place in her new home, putting down roots. It’s a good story.

This is a well-rounded anthology, entertaining and thought-provoking in one. The stories were all easy to read, even the ones that made my teeth hurt (Tessa Kum and Janeen Webb’s stories did that for me, but in a good, thought-provoking way). It also acted as an introduction to a number of Australian authors whose names I recognised but I hadn’t read before. I now have new names on my To Be Read list.