March 2008

Arts & Letters

‘The Sleepers Almanac No. 4’ edited by Zoe Dattner & Louise Swinn

By Zora Simic

Melbourne-based Sleepers Publishing has been steadily creating a well-deserved buzz around its annual collection of short fiction. Almanac No. 4 is packed with fine writing, and roomy enough to accommodate the intermittent failed experiment without losing overall quality. The editorials, ephemera and odd spots add to the sense of occasion, and the enticing cover design and new, more portable size suggest that the team is in expansion mode.

Another ambitious move is abandoning the themed issue, which is a staple of literary journals, from the stalwart British Granta series to the American publishing juggernaut McSweeney's (with which Sleepers shares a celebratory, though mercifully less smug, spirit). Yet the absence of an official theme results not in chaos so much as business as usual, for the staple subjects of fiction are present: love, family, grief, sex, literature. Of these perennials, grief and sex fare best; Luke Menzel's ‘Etchings', in which a man revisits the hospital where his sister died years earlier, is genuinely affecting, while ‘Jam is for Amateurs', by Rose Mulready, injects a subterranean sexual energy into a children's birthday party.

Stories about writers and other creative types have their pleasures, but they are eventually exhausted here. More engaging are those pieces that introduce the reader to something new, such as the hidden appeal of sanitary disposal (‘The Untouchables', by Bronwyn Mehan), the everyday miseries of cancer (‘Prussian Blue', by Jane Wallace-Mitchell) or the knock-on effects of naming a dog ‘Abo' (‘His Other Master's Voice', by David Astle).

Almanac No. 4 features some well-known authors, including Sean Condon, Max Barry and Steve Carroll. Of these, the latter offers the most satisfying contribution, with ‘The Aunt's Story', a fresh take on artist Sidney Nolan. The editors also prove their faith in new writing by giving lesser-known authors the chance to stretch out and develop characters through longer pieces. In ‘As I was Saying', David Gibb follows two friends from teenage fumbling to middle age, without getting mawkish. And Virginia Peters deserves her double appearance: ‘Good Morning Mrs Edwards' and ‘Remember Sleepy Creek' reveal a talent for astutely capturing both the claustrophobia and the comfort of monogamous relationships. May she have a collection to herself, sooner rather than later.

From the front page

Composite image showing John Hughes (image via Giramondo Publishing) and the cover of his novel The Dogs (Upswell Publishing)

A dog’s breakfast

Notes on John Hughes’s plagiarism scandal

Image of Erin Doherty as Becky Green in Chloe. Image supplied

App trap: ‘Chloe’

‘Sex Education’ writer Alice Seabright’s new psychological thriller probing social media leads this month’s streaming highlights

Pablo Picasso, Figures by the sea (Figures au bord de la mer), January 12, 1931, oil on canvas, 130.0 × 195.0 cm, Musée national Picasso-Paris. © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency, 2022. Photo: © RMN - Grand Palais - Mathieu Rabeau

‘The Picasso Century’ at the NGV

The NGV’s exhibition offers a fascinating history of the avant-garde across the Spanish artist’s lifetime

Cover image of Paul Dalla Rosa’s ‘An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life’

‘An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life’

Alienations and fantasies of escape unify the stories in Australian author Paul Dalla Rosa’s debut collection

In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

John Pilger & Martha Gellhorn

Free house

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

The other Teresa Brennan

‘Skins’, Season 1, SBS


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Online exclusives

Composite image showing John Hughes (image via Giramondo Publishing) and the cover of his novel The Dogs (Upswell Publishing)

A dog’s breakfast

Notes on John Hughes’s plagiarism scandal

Image of Erin Doherty as Becky Green in Chloe. Image supplied

App trap: ‘Chloe’

‘Sex Education’ writer Alice Seabright’s new psychological thriller probing social media leads this month’s streaming highlights

Pablo Picasso, Figures by the sea (Figures au bord de la mer), January 12, 1931, oil on canvas, 130.0 × 195.0 cm, Musée national Picasso-Paris. © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency, 2022. Photo: © RMN - Grand Palais - Mathieu Rabeau

‘The Picasso Century’ at the NGV

The NGV’s exhibition offers a fascinating history of the avant-garde across the Spanish artist’s lifetime

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