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Stream System: The Collected Short Fiction of Gerald Murnane

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Stories from a mind-bending Australian master, "a genius on the level of Beckett" (Teju Cole) Never before available to readers in this hemisphere, these stories--originally published from 1985 to 2012--offer an irresistible compendium of the work of one of contemporary fiction's greatest magicians. While the Australian master Gerald Murnane's reputation rests largely on his Stories from a mind-bending Australian master, "a genius on the level of Beckett" (Teju Cole) Never before available to readers in this hemisphere, these stories--originally published from 1985 to 2012--offer an irresistible compendium of the work of one of contemporary fiction's greatest magicians. While the Australian master Gerald Murnane's reputation rests largely on his longer works of fiction, his short stories stand among the most brilliant and idiosyncratic uses of the form since Borges, Beckett, and Nabokov. Brutal, comic, obscene, and crystalline, Stream System runs from the haunting "Land Deal," which imagines the colonization of Australia and the ultimate vengeance of its indigenous people as a series of nested dreams; to "Finger Web," which tells a quietly terrifying, fractal tale of the scars of war and the roots of misogyny; to "The Interior of Gaaldine," which finds its anxious protagonist stranded beyond the limits of fiction itself. No one else writes like Murnane, and there are few other authors alive still capable of changing how--and why--we read.


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Stories from a mind-bending Australian master, "a genius on the level of Beckett" (Teju Cole) Never before available to readers in this hemisphere, these stories--originally published from 1985 to 2012--offer an irresistible compendium of the work of one of contemporary fiction's greatest magicians. While the Australian master Gerald Murnane's reputation rests largely on his Stories from a mind-bending Australian master, "a genius on the level of Beckett" (Teju Cole) Never before available to readers in this hemisphere, these stories--originally published from 1985 to 2012--offer an irresistible compendium of the work of one of contemporary fiction's greatest magicians. While the Australian master Gerald Murnane's reputation rests largely on his longer works of fiction, his short stories stand among the most brilliant and idiosyncratic uses of the form since Borges, Beckett, and Nabokov. Brutal, comic, obscene, and crystalline, Stream System runs from the haunting "Land Deal," which imagines the colonization of Australia and the ultimate vengeance of its indigenous people as a series of nested dreams; to "Finger Web," which tells a quietly terrifying, fractal tale of the scars of war and the roots of misogyny; to "The Interior of Gaaldine," which finds its anxious protagonist stranded beyond the limits of fiction itself. No one else writes like Murnane, and there are few other authors alive still capable of changing how--and why--we read.

30 review for Stream System: The Collected Short Fiction of Gerald Murnane

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    "While I was writing the previous sentence, I saw in my mind an image of a bed of tall flowers near a stone wall which is the wall of a house on its shaded side. I would like to be sure that the image of the tall flowers and the stone wall first appeared in my mind while I was reading Swann’s Way in 1961, but I can be sure of no more than that I see those flowers and that wall in my mind whenever I try to remember myself first reading the prose fiction of Marcel Proust. I am not writing today about a b "While I was writing the previous sentence, I saw in my mind an image of a bed of tall flowers near a stone wall which is the wall of a house on its shaded side. I would like to be sure that the image of the tall flowers and the stone wall first appeared in my mind while I was reading Swann’s Way in 1961, but I can be sure of no more than that I see those flowers and that wall in my mind whenever I try to remember myself first reading the prose fiction of Marcel Proust. I am not writing today about a book or even about my reading of a book. I am writing about images that appear in my mind whenever I try to remember my having read that book. The image of the flowers is an image of the blooms of the Russell lupins that I saw in an illustration on a packet of seeds in 1948, when I was nine years old. I had asked my mother to buy the seeds because I wanted to make a flower-bed among the patches of dust and gravel and the clumps of spear grass around the rented weatherboard house at 244 Neale Street, Bendigo, which I used to see in my mind continually during the years from 1966 to 1971, while I was writing about the house at 42 Leslie Street, Bassett, in my book of fiction Tamarisk Row. I planted the seeds in the spring of 1948. I watered the bed and tended the green plants that grew from the seeds. However, the spring of 1948 was the season when my father decided suddenly to move from Bendigo and when I was taken across the Great Divide and the Western Plains to a rented weatherboard cottage near the Southern Ocean in the district of Allansford before I could compare whatever flowers might have appeared on my plants with the coloured illustration on the packet of seeds. While I was writing the previous paragraph, a further detail appeared in the image of the garden beside the wall in my mind. I now see in the garden in my mind an image of a small boy with dark hair. The boy is staring and listening. I understand today that the image of the boy would first have appeared in my mind at some time during the five months before January 1961 and soon after I had looked for the first time at a photograph taken in the year 1910 in the grounds of a State school near the Southern Ocean in the district of Allansford. The district of Allansford is the district where my father was born and where my father’s parents lived for forty years until the death of my father’s father in 1949 and where I spent my holidays as a child. The photograph is of the pupils of the school assembled in rows beside a garden bed where the taller plants might be delphiniums or even Russell lupins. Among the smallest children in the front row, a dark-haired boy aged six years stares towards the camera and turns his head slightly as though afraid of missing some word or some signal from his elders and his betters. The staring and listening boy of 1910 became in time the man who became my father twenty-nine years after the photograph had been taken and who died in August 1960, two weeks before I looked for the first time at the photograph, which my father’s mother had kept for fifty years in her collection of photographs, and five months before I read for the first time the volume Swann’s Way in the paperback edition with the brownish cover." - Reading Murnane made me think of McElroy at times, and I realised the connection is phenomenological. I thought of the following passage from Heidegger, which I also quoted years back in a review of Lookout Cartridge I did on Goodreads. I think both writers connect to the idea in this quote in very different ways, yet they both certainly do connect to it. There is also a similar attempt at precision from both authors - an effort to precisely delineate and express experience. " What is there in the room there at home is the table (not “a” table among many other tables in other rooms and other houses) at which one sits in order to write, have a meal, sew, play. Everyone sees this right away, e.g., during a visit: it is a writing table, a dining table, a sewing table—such is the primary way in which it is being encountered in itself. This characteristic of “in order to do something” is not merely imposed on the table by relating and assimilating it to something else which it is not. Its standing-there in the room means: Playing this role in such and such characteristic use. This and that about it is “impractical,” unsuitable. That part is damaged. It now stands in a better spot in the room than before—there’s better lighting, for example. . . . Here and there it shows lines—the boys like to busy themselves at the table. Those lines are not just interruptions in the paint, but rather: it was the boys and it still is. This side is not the east side, and this narrow side so many cm. shorter than the other, but rather the one at which my wife sits in the evening when she wants to stay up and read, there at the table we had such and such a discussion that time, there that decision was made with a friend that time, there that work was written that time, there that holiday celebrated that time. That is the table—as such it is there in the temporality of everydayness. . . .." Heidegger - The Hermeneutics of Facticity, 1923

  2. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Two images come to my mind as I sit at my dining room table writing this review. The first image mentioned in the previous sentence is of myself after having read an article in the New York Times about the writer of Stream System, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York. The article mentioned in the previous sentence portrayed the writer as a brilliant and eccentric Australian who has been producing brilliant and eccentric fiction in Australia for the last 50 years. As a result, I sta Two images come to my mind as I sit at my dining room table writing this review. The first image mentioned in the previous sentence is of myself after having read an article in the New York Times about the writer of Stream System, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York. The article mentioned in the previous sentence portrayed the writer as a brilliant and eccentric Australian who has been producing brilliant and eccentric fiction in Australia for the last 50 years. As a result, I started reading works by the writer. I have now read over 600 pages written by the writer, in which only three minor characters were given a name, two of whom were residents of a psychiatric facility. The first image mentioned in the first sentence of this paragraph is of me giving a one star review of the book mentioned in this paragraph. The writer has put together random thoughts and images throughout the years and is having a good laugh at the Yanks who have suddenly discovered him. It occurs to me that the article was published close to April 1, so perhaps the New York Times was in on the joke. The fiction is nothing more than disjointed musings from a very strange mind. The second of the images mentioned above is of me giving this work of fiction 5 stars on Goodreads and gushing like a middle school student first reading Vonnegut. This is by far the most idiosyncratic collection of short fiction (hard to call them stories) that I have ever read. The writer uses simple language, repetition and self-referential sentences to create a trancelike rhythm. This rhythm flows throughout the stories, and images and scenes reappear and are transformed like melodies in a symphony. There is a musicality to his use of language that moves the reader forward despite any substantive action or plot. This language serves to focus the themes of his work, which include the art of writing, memory, human connection, longing and isolation. His themes are expansive, yet seem to come entirely from the random images floating through his mind. He can be both poignant, when describing comforting an ill child in ‘When the Mice Failed to Arrive,’ or scathingly funny, as in his send-up of a writer’s colony in ‘Stone Quarry.’ In this later work, aspiring writers participate in a workshop where they cannot acknowledge each other. Any personal connection results with expulsion from the group, so the writers are forced to embed coded messages in their work that is distributed to the group daily. Another piece, ‘Boy Blue,’ purports to explain why his characters are not named, and gives some insight into his creative process. “Other persons may pretend whatever they choose to pretend, but I cannot pretend that any character in any story written by me or by any other person is a person who lives or has lived in the place where I sit writing these words. I see the characters in stories, including the story of which this sentence is a part, as being in the invisible place that I often call my mind. I would like the reader or the listener to notice that I wrote the word being and not the word living in the previous sentence.” Fiction writing devolves to a form of code in ‘The Interior of Gaaldine.’ Writing becomes a tool to advance an elaborate game of horse racing. Specifically, text from Victorian novels are used to determine the winners of the daily races in an intricate made-up world. Novels are not real, they are not remembered, and they are useful only for advancing childish games. Writing is a string of images spawned by other, vaguely connected images, creating more images, some of which are forgotten and some remain but are changed. “I am not writing today about a book or even about my reading of a book. I am writing about the images that appear in my mind whenever I try to remember my having read that book.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    Yes, it is that good, but also not something to read straight through. It's a shame the publishers weren't clearer about where the stories came from, so people could read the original collections one at a time, without trawling through the internets looking for tables of contents. Hey, Justin! Maybe perform a public service? Okay, Justin? As best as I can tell: Velvet Waters: pp 3-223. Emerald Blue: pp 247-436. 'White Cattle of Uppington' and 'The Interior of Gaaldine' are stand-alones. 'Invisibl Yes, it is that good, but also not something to read straight through. It's a shame the publishers weren't clearer about where the stories came from, so people could read the original collections one at a time, without trawling through the internets looking for tables of contents. Hey, Justin! Maybe perform a public service? Okay, Justin? As best as I can tell: Velvet Waters: pp 3-223. Emerald Blue: pp 247-436. 'White Cattle of Uppington' and 'The Interior of Gaaldine' are stand-alones. 'Invisible yet Enduring Lilacs,' from the volume of that name. I think the last three stories are from 'History of Books,' but I can't be bothered going to find my copy and make sure. Perhaps owners of VW and EB can correct me if I've made some mistakes here.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ben Winch

    Publishing event of the year for me, given the previous scarcity of the collection Emerald Blue, included here in its entirety, and the importance of that collection as a hinge on which Murnane’s work’s two phases turn, specifically the story “The Interior of Gaaldine”. That story—wow! It’s a classic, remorseless, hilarious, black as pitch. That is, until its strange denouement, a wildly improbable sequence in which the horse-racing-obsessed Murnane discovers another writer, still more obscure t Publishing event of the year for me, given the previous scarcity of the collection Emerald Blue, included here in its entirety, and the importance of that collection as a hinge on which Murnane’s work’s two phases turn, specifically the story “The Interior of Gaaldine”. That story—wow! It’s a classic, remorseless, hilarious, black as pitch. That is, until its strange denouement, a wildly improbable sequence in which the horse-racing-obsessed Murnane discovers another writer, still more obscure than him at the time, who is likewise obsessed with horse racing, so much so that he (the other writer) has built up an entire archive (not unlike Murnane’s own famous archive) dedicated to it. I won’t pretend to understand that denouement, or even to think it wise, but then I’m far beyond demanding coherency from a Murnane story, not to mention anything I can fully “understand”. Oh sure, some of the stories I understand. “In Far Fields”, for eg, that’s brilliant, a masterclass in fiction-writing which I guarantee is unlike any other such class you’ll come across. “Fingerweb”, that’s a dark one, gender politics dubious, but thrillingly honest, deep, disturbing. But overall, I just don’t know if I know what to say about Murnane anymore, and by the look of the videos of the recent Goroke Murnane Symposium I’ve got some serious competition. Besides, the truth is I’m a relatively recent convert—didn’t read Barley Patch till 2016, throughout which reading it gradually dawned on me: the guy’s a genius. Another truth: I’d read half of the stories collected here before: Velvet Waters (the other key collection) graced my shelves in the mid-90s. But I couldn’t grasp it! It seemed so slight. I guess I was looking for some un-Murnanian substance in it, and neglecting to note the Murnanian. I remember thinking (this baffles me now) that the man was arrogant. Maybe he just seemed wilful, too sure of himself, unconcerned about any or most of the usual pacts between a writer and a reader of fiction. Whatever the problem, the substance of his stories floated like slightly opaque gas through my head, and I filed it under “bafflement”. Same thing with The Plains and Inland; I just didn’t get it. (The truth is I still don’t. I read both of those so-called masterpieces earlier this year, in the biggest Murnane binge I’d yet known, and thought The Plains drole and pointless and Inland obtuse, maybe from exactly the publisher-pressures Murnane describes as inescapable in his pre-Barley Patch days.) But Barley Patch, that made sense to me. And from that sense I developed a sense, which enabled me to breathe that Murnanian vapour, at least in the form we find it in Barley Patch, A Million Windows, Border Districts and Landscape With Landscape, and in most of these collected stories—which list, for me, constitutes his best and truest (because, I believe, least compromised) work. If you know that list, if you’ve read those titles and enjoyed them, Stream System is a sure thing. In places, it’s brilliant; in places untouchable. Still, if you’re anything like me you may read through the novella “Emerald Blue” (for eg) and finish thinking “Huh?! What the *$ was that about?” despite its beauty. All I can guess is it’s about the journey. Murnane, when he’s on, writes a page you can really sink into. As he says in “Why I Write What I Write” (in Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs): I write sentences. I write first one sentence, then another sentence. I write sentence after sentence. [...] After I’ve written each sentence I read it aloud. I listen to the sound of the sentence, and I don’t begin to write the next sentence unless I’m absolutely satisfied with the sound of the sentence I’m listening to. At their best, every one of those sentences is a felt experience for the reader, an entirety, an end unto itself. Yes, there’s the sense that they may never really take us anywhere. But maybe, where they are is good enough. Maybe, as I never seem to tire of quoting, the aesthetic experience really is the “imminence of a revelation that never occurs” (Borges). I won’t lie to you: it doesn’t occur here either. Given the rarity of Emerald Blue and the reputation of “The Interior of Gaaldine” you could be forgiven for hoping otherwise. But while I’ll be re-reading that story as closely as I can I doubt I’ll ever feel again the thrill of anticipation that gripped me as its drunken narrator boarded the boat for Tasmania. Just for its tone and texture, it’s a masterpiece. For the backstory—writer at his lowest ebb gives up writing after this story—it’s a crucial part of a myth, a piece of history. For me, the first half of “The Interior of Gaaldine” was the most potent ten-pages of 2018, and this book is a treasure, laced with gems. 2018—the year Murnane broke. I don’t care if he never wins the Nobel, living in a shed out back of his son’s house in a one-horse town five hours drive from Melbourne is an outsider hero. On the home-stretch he’s put in a last spurt, eclipsed the favourites. Stream System shows he was quietly keeping pace all along.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    I admire Murnane's ideas about life and fiction more than I do the style through which he conveys them. I understand the choice at a theoretical level (to persistently foreground the fact that one is reading only fiction, that the words are never to be conflated with real entities) but the device becomes wearisome after 500+ pages of discrete stories, most of which share a quasi-autobiographical bearing. The prose rarely strays from a clinical/technical tone, a kind of autopsy of the No-Survivor I admire Murnane's ideas about life and fiction more than I do the style through which he conveys them. I understand the choice at a theoretical level (to persistently foreground the fact that one is reading only fiction, that the words are never to be conflated with real entities) but the device becomes wearisome after 500+ pages of discrete stories, most of which share a quasi-autobiographical bearing. The prose rarely strays from a clinical/technical tone, a kind of autopsy of the No-Survivors collision of life and literature. The longer stories--"Emerald Blue" and "Velvet Waters"--can be appreciated as novellas on their own, and it gives me hope that Murnane has achieved something greater in his standalone works.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aloke

    “For newcomers, the wide-ranging “Stream System” is the place to begin. Some of the stories assume more recognizable forms — for instance, the entire history of Australian colonialism becomes a concise, Borgesian parable about desire in “Land Deal.” NYtimes https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/03/27...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Haines

    This is more like a 3.5 star review. (I really wish that was an option in this case.) I'm tempted to round it up to a 4, but that would be dishonest on my part. By the end of this collection, I was ready to be done with Gerald Murnane, so I can't claim that I enjoyed this tome from cover to cover. But there were many, many moments in here where I understood what all the praise is about when it comes to this author. And I am very glad that I gave it a chance. I haven't read any novel by Murnane, j This is more like a 3.5 star review. (I really wish that was an option in this case.) I'm tempted to round it up to a 4, but that would be dishonest on my part. By the end of this collection, I was ready to be done with Gerald Murnane, so I can't claim that I enjoyed this tome from cover to cover. But there were many, many moments in here where I understood what all the praise is about when it comes to this author. And I am very glad that I gave it a chance. I haven't read any novel by Murnane, just this book of collected short fiction, so I can't speak about him in that sense; but I can say that his style is certainly a distinct one, and that he is always intentioned with what he puts on the page (even when it is incredibly repetitious, and you want to tear out your eyeballs). 80% of the time, you come to the conclusion of these stories, let out a sigh, and think: wow, that was really beautiful, actually. Simple things built atop the other one after the other feels like a slowly spinning web; surreal narratives that are biographical and yet still fiction; adventures occur in the mind as well as through nameless characters in places through decades of time, and suddenly I'm reminded of Borges more than Hemingway. The issue I guess is that sometimes it's difficult to get to the end without becoming a bit frustrated. This is not flowery prose most of the time. Murnane writes with simple, direct sentences the vast majority of the time, and builds on them with other simple, direct sentences (and then other, simple, direct sentences); he's not out to impress anyone with his vocabulary, and he seems uninterested (mostly) in wowing with a sentence. Even in the shorter pieces, it's all about the piece as a whole, and it takes the length of the piece to realize the genius of it. All that being said, this repetitious style does not necessarily lend itself (IMO) to length. The longer pieces of fiction contained in this work are at times a slog to get through, and by the time you reach the end, you kind of just don't care anymore about what is being said. However, in the shorter pieces, this style shines brilliantly (like in Stone Quarry, Stream System, There Were Some Countries, First Love, etc). Basically, as soon as a story of Murnane's passes the 25 page limit, beware. Anything up to that and below in the collection is excellent, and a unique experience to read. In a pure, honest sense, I just don't like Murnane's technical style all that much. This is not the sort of writing that blows my skirt up sentence to sentence, even though I often enjoy the end product. This is a complete preference, and does not reflect on the probable genius of this writer.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David Rice

    Nothing short of life-changing. Among the top 10 greatest books I've ever read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Domitori

    4 stars would be a more honest rating: there were a few instances when Murnane's monomaniacal obsessive droning loopiness drove me up the wall and forced me to violently interrupt my reading, to break away, to cleanse my brain palette - only to return a couple of days later for more. But I can't give less than 5 stars to a book that granted me so many moments of sheer euphoria.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Tole

    The more I read of the writing of Gerald Murnane, the more I become captivated by his work. He is without doubt a writer’s writer as well as a thinker’s writer and much of his work is about the act of writing – precise, concise, often metafictional with, but we can never be quite sure, portions of autobiography as fiction. Now he has become discovered in America and Europe and is commonly hailed as the next Nobel Laureate. He is also an extremely hard working and prodigious writer, or has been a The more I read of the writing of Gerald Murnane, the more I become captivated by his work. He is without doubt a writer’s writer as well as a thinker’s writer and much of his work is about the act of writing – precise, concise, often metafictional with, but we can never be quite sure, portions of autobiography as fiction. Now he has become discovered in America and Europe and is commonly hailed as the next Nobel Laureate. He is also an extremely hard working and prodigious writer, or has been as he says that 'Border Districts' is his last novel however you can hardly expect someone like Murnane to simply retire and stop writing. From the extensive interview with Mark Binelli in the New York Times Magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/27/ma... we know that he is a compulsive archivist of his own writing and his past as well as an enthusiastic racegoer and isolationist, revelling in his lack of knowledge of what might be termed ‘modern day appurtenances’. He seems stuck happily in his own world, preferring not to travel or indulge in any other cultural activities apart from his own writing, the local bar and golf club and beer. He must now be considered upon the more extensive availability of his work, a great writer whose work as a canon will stand up to much scrutiny. Having dipped my toes, so to speak, into the novels it has been more than interesting to read the short stories within this compilation of Stream System. These date back as far as 1980 with the most recent being 2002, so they represent a mature writer happy and skilled with his craft. The short stories are arranged pretty much chronologically. In some ways the short stories are quite separate from the novels. They are like short, sharp shocks against the extended tinctures of the novels. There is a meditative quality in much of the work – in some more than others – but all ask the reader to follow the line, follow the thread, be aware of what is being written. If José Saramago, J.M. Coetzee and Thomas Bernhard are the parable writers then Murnane is the meditation mantra writer. Stream Systems, the second story in the collection reminds me of an old Rolf Harris song The Court of King Caractacus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3s0j...) where the story is built up and added to bit by bit and at every round, every repeat we learn a little more. This is a Murnanism and he uses it in several stories. This particular story is somewhat different in that it was written to be read aloud. Murnane just loves metafiction. It gives him the ability to examine writing by placing a distance between himself the writer, and the work of fiction that he is writing. It is what ties him in exactly with Italo Calvino and Vladimir Nabokov and At Swim-Two-Birds and James Joyce. He also wears his influences out front. You can almost smell Marcel Proust and taste Samuel Beckett and feel Jorge Luis Borges, but he cites others within the stories. Stendahl, Gustave Flaubert and Katherine Mansfield all crop up and from these we learn of Murnane's love of books and writing of a particular style, a Eurocentric love of writing. If we combine Murnane's 'metafictional' style with the purity of the prose, you end up coming back to the nature of fiction against the nature of autobiography. How much of all these works is autobiography? Where does the fiction or the autobiography start and finish? Are they completely wrapped up in each other? Well of course they are as they always are. The writer cannot write without betraying / imparting / imbuing the work with the sense of himself. But there seems more to it than just that. We know that Murnane is an arch-archivist, he loves horse racing, he studied in a seminary for a time, he worked as a teacher for many years, lived close to Melbourne and is intimate with the plains and bush of Victoria, that he does not like travelling, loves a beer or three and is an avid observer. All these themes occur and are used in these short stories. The autobiography is closely entwined like a skein of wool with the fiction and as we untangle it quite often a beautiful gem will drop out unexpectedly. In Stone Quarry we learn that.... No living author would be read because the reader of a living author might be tempted one day to search out the author and ask some question about the text or about the weather on the day when this or that page was first composed or about a certain year of the author's life before the first sentence of the text came into being. It is this INTENSE searching and questioning of the whole process of writing and reading and appreciating that just inhabits all his work. These meditations on writing become spellbinding. A story like Precious Bane IS just like a mantra? When is the meditation finished? When does it reach it’s end? Some of these short stories feel like they could just run and run. Much has been made of Murnane’s lack of interest in character or plot or style. When you read something like Cotters Come No More you realise that this is not exactly true. This is a faultless short story of a bachelor uncle and an orphaned nephew and the connections between them. The form is almost onomatopoeic. There is a palpable tension throughout the piece, certainly rhythmic, almost staccato with sentence following sentence each with a similar form and a similar number of words and syllables. It is fugue-like. This is particularly noticeable when the uncle is discussed but drops when the subject of poetry or the country is raised. This is the closest that any of the short stories comes to the flavour of the novels, particularly The Plains. The writing feels metaphoric dealing ostensibly with one subject but implying another. There is a frisson between the 15 y.o. nephew and the 40 y.o. plus bachelor uncle, a dance between them, a spoken and unspoken dialogue. It captures well the sense of being aged 15. And Murnane is a master of memory and portrayal of youth. This is a particularly strong short story with so much left unspoken. It is not as if Murnane’s prose is mellifluous and rolling off the tongue – it is actually pretty much the opposite. It requires work from the reader. A seemingly simple sentence and string of sentences may contain multiple ideas and meanings whilst being written quite simply. It is like a subterfuge of superficiality with coiled rings of meaning which have to be scried by the reader peeling away skin after skin of the onion. Are these fictions really fictions or are they simply biographies? A story like The White Cattle of Uppington has you questioning and doubting where the boundary lies. Is Murnane constantly delivering up to us parts of himself, one light followed by another, side elevation followed by plan view and frontage. He also is a great self-referrer quite often pulling the reader back to a previous paragraph in the same short story or even embarking on a theme touched on and used in another short story or in one of the novels. There is a Zen-like austerity in his appreciation of books in that a book can only be appreciated by the reader – not by a review, not someone else’s view, not by a discussion, not by a critic, not by a book group – but simply alone and by the reader. Pink Lining, Boy Blue and to a degree Emerald Blue describe the way Murnane thinks about his writing – never naming characters, waiting for the title to present itself but always the story containing the title and even being the reason for the writing. Each presents us with some knowledge but then heads off somewhere else to give us a further insight through a meditation upon another feature suggested as the writing proceeded. If anything the later stories in the collection become stronger and stronger and more and more personal and about less and less. Murnane is direct to the reader. He is writing FOR us (and of course for himself). It seems not to be Murnane’s characters appealing to us but Murnane himself. Most authors tend to utilise the artificiality of characters and we are drawn into this through the concept of plot. There is little plot in a Murnane fiction but great great depth and simplicity and a directness. His sentences are simple and beautiful. The boy’s name was David. The man, whatever his name was, had known, as soon as he read that sentence, that the boy’s name had not been David. At the same time, the man had not been fool enough to suppose that the name of the boy had been the same as the name of the author of the fiction, whatever his name had been. The man had understood that the man who had written the sentence understood that to write such a sentence was to lay claim to a level of truth that no historian and no biographer could ever lay claim to. There was never a boy named David, the writer of the fiction might as well have written, but if you, the Reader, and I, the Writer, can agree that there might have been such a boy so named, then I undertake to tell you what you could never otherwise have learned about any boy of that name. I can't get enough of Murnane. Every book I have read of his always contains a part where I wonder what on earth he is doing and where this is leading. But each time this occurs there is a desire to keep on following the line. Murnane has given me a far greater understanding of metafiction that I ever had before encountering him. And if truth be told, a better understanding of the craft of the writer and what writing IS!

  11. 5 out of 5

    J

    I seldom give up, but I could only get through a quarter of the collection. The stories aren’t traditional in style or construction. While I understood the sentences and actions, they didn’t amount to coherent, substantive, or enjoyable stories for me This one goes to the resale pile.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Collected Short Fiction offers an entrée to Gerald Murnane's fiction for the newbie. I've been reading his books for years now, and am a confirmed enthusiast only too delighted by his more recent prominence both here in Australia and overseas. But I'm no closer to 'understanding' Murnane, only more comfortable with the effect his writing has on me. (This is what I wrote in a comment on my post about The Plains, back in 2009 when I was reading Inland: I keep going backwards and forwards and re-read Collected Short Fiction offers an entrée to Gerald Murnane's fiction for the newbie. I've been reading his books for years now, and am a confirmed enthusiast only too delighted by his more recent prominence both here in Australia and overseas. But I'm no closer to 'understanding' Murnane, only more comfortable with the effect his writing has on me. (This is what I wrote in a comment on my post about The Plains, back in 2009 when I was reading Inland: I keep going backwards and forwards and re-reading…and then spinning off with thoughts and ideas of my own that seem to be couched in his kind of circular sentences, as if he has colonised my mind. It is a bizarre experience to read something like this, floundering around trying to work out what’s happening even though it seems unlikely that anything is actually happening. These days I don't flounder, I surf along whatever wave I can catch. And yes, it's exhilarating.) The blurb for Collected Short Fiction has this to say: This volume brings together Gerald Murnane’s shorter works of fiction, most of which have been out of print for the past twenty five years. They include such masterpieces as ‘When the Mice Failed to Arrive’, ‘Stream System’, ‘First Love’, ‘Emerald Blue’, and ‘The Interior of Gaaldine’, a story which holds the key to the long break in Murnane’s career, and points the way towards his later works, from Barley Patch to Border Districts. Much is made of Murnane’s distinctive and elaborate style as a writer, but there is no one to match him in his sensitive portraits of family members – parents, uncles and aunts, and particularly children – and in his probing of situations which contain anxiety and embarrassment, shame or delight. When the Mice Failed to Arrive' was originally published in the Autumn 1989 edition of a periodical called 'Sport' and then in Velvet Waters (McPhee Gribble 1990). The excruciating depiction of the narrator's childhood anxiety spills into what seems to be a deeply personal account of parental failings and guilty memories from a teaching career. And it's true: even if you're Gerald Murnane and perhaps not temperamentally suited to teaching, it's a career that's like parenthood, it's filled with guilt about the times you failed to meet a need, or weren't prepared, or you lost your temper, or let a child down when they needed you most. Those times do haunt teachers who care... Guilt also seeps into 'Stream System' which was first published in The Age Monthly Review 8, no 9, December 1988-January 1989: When my brother first went to school I used to hide from him in the schoolground. I did not want my brother to speak to me in his strange speech. I did not want my friends to hear my brother and then ask me why he spoke strangely. During the rest of my childhood and until I left my parents' house, I tried never to be seen with my brother, If I could not avoid travelling on the same train with my brother I would order him to sit in a different compartment from mine. If I could not avoid walking in the street with my brother I would order him not to look in my direction and not to speak to me. When my brother first went to school my mother said that he was no different from any other boy but in later years my mother would admit that my brother was a little backward. My brother died when he was forty-three years old and I was forty-six. My brother never married. Many people came to my brother's funeral, but none of those people had ever been a friend to my brother. I was certainly never a friend to my brother. On the day before my brother died I understood for the first time that no one had ever been a friend to my brother. (p.39) To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2019/02/10/c...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sherrell

    A book of fiction written inside and about the mind of the author, a terrain that is given as much if not more ontological weight than what Gerald Murnane calls “the place usually referred to as the real world.” Murnane is razor sharp in distinguishing between the various philosophical entities implicated in a work of fiction—himself, the implied author of his writing, the narrator of his writing, the narrator’s own fictive creations, the reader, the implied reader, his imagined reader. In clini A book of fiction written inside and about the mind of the author, a terrain that is given as much if not more ontological weight than what Gerald Murnane calls “the place usually referred to as the real world.” Murnane is razor sharp in distinguishing between the various philosophical entities implicated in a work of fiction—himself, the implied author of his writing, the narrator of his writing, the narrator’s own fictive creations, the reader, the implied reader, his imagined reader. In clinical, almost clerical prose, he bends all of these layers into and past each other, and I got this quiet, rare, awe-inspiring feeling of standing at an arbitrary point in a limitless metaphysical fractal. His writing seems to me to represent a major leap in the history of introspection; it left me inspired to travel further and more carefully toward the distant places in my own head.

  14. 4 out of 5

    nathan

    I've come to realize that this is a collection to be taken in small bites, one at a time spaced in between changing seasons. The way the stories cycle around and spiral into the epiphanies that relate to Murname's history, home, and psyche only damage the reading experience if you were to read them page after page. It gets exhausting, it gets nearly impossible to enjoy or find fascination in. But the very way we loop and loop with his stories is the reflection of memory in its own workings. Nost I've come to realize that this is a collection to be taken in small bites, one at a time spaced in between changing seasons. The way the stories cycle around and spiral into the epiphanies that relate to Murname's history, home, and psyche only damage the reading experience if you were to read them page after page. It gets exhausting, it gets nearly impossible to enjoy or find fascination in. But the very way we loop and loop with his stories is the reflection of memory in its own workings. Nostalgia at its very best.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael O'Donnell

    A tortuous read. the formal regimented structure without the use of names the recursive references made it extremely difficult to appreciate themes repetitive I have mentioned no characters in this story so the first character you see is me. subtle twists and surprise connections were admirable. reading through the mire to get them left it unsatisfying. a study in writing from Coburg, Victoria.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Stanfill

    Ok its book of short stories and I've yet to finish them all but overall I love the writing style and the story are excellent. I am a lover of short stories but now that I am out of university there are some full books Iv been looking forward to tackling but I can guarantee ill read all of this and re-read many of them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mark Bell

    Maybe the greatest writer in English at the moment. Really a fictionalized autobiography, so closely do these stories mine the author's personal life, and yet he has made something probing and beautiful and not vulgar or "confessional," with prose worthy of comparison to Updike, Nabokov, and Ellison.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Margo

    Shortlisted for nearly every writing award, Murnane has a distinctive writing style, looping around and around inside his head without actually going anywhere (or at least anywhere I can follow.) I tried repeatedly, but could only get through the first hundred pages before setting the book aside.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Schulof

    The depth of insight, the formal ingenuity, the stylistic idiosyncraticity. Anyone concerned with producing or consuming literary art that wrestles with the most fundamental and timeless issues of the human intellectual experience really must read this. I regret that it took me so long to find it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    George Bachman

    Superb metafiction that, unlike some, gives all the pleasures of traditional fiction while never failing to remind you that you are looking over the author's shoulder as he is writing. A good introduction to Murnane if you have not dived into The Plains for some reason. Excellent. Go, read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    P

    Under the Proustian, looping, self-referential syntax Murnane has moments of pure insight. Try to find a way to read Finger Web, which is so much more compelling than everything else in this collection.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Hogmire

    Can't believe I'm saying this, because I absolutely adore The Plains, but this collection was quite a slog for me overall. Most stories boil down to: lonely man/boy is sad/angry that he can't get woman/girl (read: object) to fuck him, so he masturbates in the woods/a shed/etc. Not for me, thanks.

  23. 5 out of 5

    BeamOfSunlight

    Challenging subject material at times, but just spectacularly written.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Meade Arble

    A potential Nobel winner who lives in a small Australian backwater town. The prose is borderline overly mannered, but replete with Jim Harrison-like detail that makes the good stories very good.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Wes

    It’s a series of images connected by grassy paths

  26. 5 out of 5

    juice

    I got a full 9 percent of the way into this. I think I did pretty well, really.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julio M virrueta

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eyal

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sean

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Piazzola

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