I've been re-reading the four amazing pieces of flash fiction by David Swann that feature in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine (Vol. 8. No. 1) published by the University of Chester, UK. They're incredibly good. I found "Dead Colleague" particularly powerful. Here's an excerpt of Swann's piece:
"I thought I saw him again today. He looked just the way I remembered, carrying a tray through the university canteen.The feeling lasted for less than a second. Then I recalled helping to empty his office after he died, remembered the large photograph we found hidden behind his filing cabinet: a rowing boat, painted sky-blue, pulled onto a bank of shingle, with a glimpse of sea beyond. He had stuck it in a place where no one would ever see it. Gulf of Corinth, 1978, it said on the back, in his handwriting.
His widow had said: 'Bin it all'.
But the boat refused to enter the waste-basket." ....
A friend recently gave me an old book, rescued from a charity pile, called Poets at War (pub. 1944). All poems included in the anthology were written by Australian servicemen (to quote the book, although there are a few poems written by women). ANZAC day seemed an appropriate day to read it. Unsurprisingly, for those writing from amidst the carnage rather than the rhetoric, the common themes are loss, and the horror and futility of war. "If I kill you in war and you kill me,/We gain no understanding, love nor trust;/Only discover that we both are dust." (Russel Harte).
I liked this rather haunting poem by David McNicoll, called "Men Laughing". It's of its time, of course, but still moving, I think.
"Sometimes, if the night is quiet, I can hear men laughing
Across on the far side of the hill"
[Click on 'Read More' to read the poem in full]
I tend to read all over the place, time-wise: a novel published a month ago, a novel published a century ago. Recently, I read Elizabeth Strout's 2016 novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, which I thought was very good. Intrigued by her style, I went back to an earlier novel of hers, Olive Kitteridge. I think it is a stunning piece of work. An astonishing achievement. It did win the Pulitzer Prize, so presumably other people thought so, too. It's unusual, moving, funny, true. The best novel I've read in quite a while.
Amanda O'Callaghan is an award-winning writer of short stories and flash fiction. She has been published and won awards in Australia, Ireland and the UK.
Queensland Literary Fellowship
I am honoured to have been one of three recipients of a Queensland Writers Fellowship (2016). Congratulations to my fellow awardees: Trent Jamieson and Pamela Rushby