The Best Australian Short Stories 2014

Erich Mayer

The Best Australian Short Stories 2014 edited by Amanda Lohrey.
The Best Australian Short Stories 2014

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This feast of excellent short stories was judicially selected by Amanda Lohrey from a selection of over 600, which was weaned to 160 – many of which, she writes, may have made the selection in another year. Lohrey's final selection of 21 from a shortlist of 72 was on the basis of personal taste and variety.

In The Stories I read as my Mother Died by Ryan O’Neil, his mother said, ‘Can’t you write something happy? Why all the doom and gloom?’ echoing how the reader might feel after reading most of the stories in this collection.

Almost without exception, the stories are so well written, that the sad, the bad and the unfortunate events and thoughts recounted in them cast a pall over the reader. You will encounter death and dying, broken marriages and unfortunate relationships and victimised women. But you will not find humour nor much contentment or joy. Maybe that is a reflection on what is going on in contemporary society: it should not be surprising that Australian writers draw their characters from what they see around them, and much of what they see is not too pleasant.

Lucy Neave in The Horse Hospital in Dubai manages to bring male-dominated Arab culture as well as western culture starkly to life. Whereas Anna Krien in Flicking the Flint portrays the victimisation of a wife and son in a purely Australian context.

There are exceptions to the misery. A gloriously ironic piece by JYL Koh who cocks her nose at very large institutions and its top brass. There is an extraordinarily sensitive tale about an encounter between a rookie policeman and an Aboriginal elder by Mark Smith. There is a fascinating fantasy, The Panther by David Brooks. Arabella Edge takes us through a bush fire in The Peacock.

Eight of the stories in this collection have not been previously published. Others have been published in various magazines, newspapers and collections so it is unlikely that many readers will have encountered more than a few of them. This makes this collection doubly worthwhile – for the lover of short stories this collection is a must.

The Best Australian Short Stories 2014
Edited by Amanda Lohrey
Published by Black Inc.

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Erich Mayer is a retired company director and former organic walnut farmer. He now edits the blog