Kent Haruf's final novel, Our Souls at Night, is a gorgeous creation. It's a small town love story between two elderly people. If you suspect it might be mawkish, think again. This short novel is both charming and, as the New Yorker put it, "sneakily devastating". The only thing I didn't like was the absence of speech marks, especially given that there is so much conversation in this book. Yes, I know it's fashionable to purge one's work of punctuation, but the absence of quotation marks was jarring to me - at least in this book - and not fair on the author, who I doubt ever wrote a jarring sentence in his entire life. Our Souls at Night is magnificent.
I'm re-reading Josephine Rowe's short story collection, called Tarcutta Wake (UQP, 2012). The first piece in it, "Brisbane", remains one of my favourite pieces of flash fiction. In about 500 words, Rowe manages to create an unforgettable panorama of grief and hope - a young mother driving north to Brisbane with her two young sons. On the run? Or breaking free? I must have read it twenty times over the years and each time I see something new. It's haunting and beautiful. And I love the long first line: "And she had this way of swivelling her head round, like an owl to talk to you as she drove, except not an owl because the skin of her neck creased up in folds and she looked so old when that happened, though she wasn't, not then, and Luke would lean over and say, Watch the road, Mum."
I haven't read her new(ish) novel, her first, yet. It's called A Loving Faithful Animal (UQP, 2016).
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