The Furphy Anthology 2022

Reviewed by Tricia Simms-Reeve

The appeal of the short story is that its few pages can thrill, illuminate, startle or be intensely moving. The discipline of condensing a writer’s theme into a thought provoking few pages is not widely valued, perhaps through lack of exposure.  In today’s world, a 300 page novel makes demands on limited time, whereas a good short story offers a satisfying diversion that takes only minutes.

Readers of the sixteen short stories chosen for the Furphy Anthology 2022 will appreciate the skill of the writers and realise that, although brief, they are fine pieces of writing.

‘The Game’ set in a school staff room demonstrates how a charming, lazy and undeserving candidate can get the political appointment denied the hard worker…

‘Winter is For Regret’ presents a vivid picture of the petty mindedness of a controlling husband.

‘00.00’ displays midnight when everything is dark and quiet but the narrator, a child, knows only fear. It lurks in the most innocent scenarios. She and her sister are powerless and made more anxious when her mother takes in another boyfriend. Past experiences have coloured her reaction to men. The atmosphere is chilling.

Topics at the heart of some of the stories is sometimes daunting. The theme in ‘Protection’ features the school bully, Kim.  It is horrifyingly close to situations all too familiar to many children.

When a story is built on actual events, the power increases. ‘Sunshine’, a snapshot of the Cronulla riots, graphically depicts different elements involved. The racist rabble and the frightened rational teenager bring back those memories of when a Sydney suburban beach made headlines – changing a sunny day into a shameful shadowy chapter in our history.

‘Fake Plants’ is a fascinating example of the abuse of technology and underlines how memory is a vital factor in an individual’s sense of self.  A boy suffers loneliness as a single child, and to ease his longing for a sibling, his parents engage a revolutionary software process which a company has developed. This erases prior memory and replaces it with shared experiences of the two children.  Sometime later, the artificial sister, Ruby, dies and there is a funeral.

Then the boy is told of the experiment and that Ruby only existed in his memory. With this terrible news, he loses not only his sister, but his sense of self. What was real?

The writing is beautiful with an aching sense of betrayal overwhelming. The possibilities of manipulating the brain are scary.

‘Art and Life’ is Cate Kennedy’s entry and it won the $15,000 prize. As with her other work, the poems especially, it is a pleasure to read. She relates an ironic episode when the character discovers the busy city populace is more impressed by his enacting a statue expressing such as ‘ Indecisive Shopper Outside the Body Shop’ or ‘Dejected Gambler outside the TAB’, than listening to a beautiful violin solo.  Art is supposedly imitating Life and in this cleverly humourous account, as in real life, the general public prefers the banal to the beauty of classical music.  ‘Art and Life’ also underlines the importance of the social aspect of our lives, be it the concert audience or the fleeting recognition of passers-by.

That  affirmation/appreciation becomes the ‘raison d’être’.

Although short stories can be a feature in a magazine, collections are not widely popular.  It is a literary form that when practised by fine exponents such as Katherine Mansfield, a world of possibilities is created and expertly condensed into perfectly chosen prose.

Like the brush turkey in ‘ The Brush Turkey’s Guide to Life’, undaunted in the face of disappointment, we should carry on and continue to enjoy the delights of short stories .

The Furphy Anthology 2022

Selected stories from the Furphy Literary Award



ISBN 978 174379 953 6

$35.99; 250pp

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