Saturday 2 September 2017

Minicry   {Review by STELLA}
In the case of Minicry, smallness is a gem, a very small zine that will fit into your wallet or purse. I suggest you carry a Minicry with you wherever you go. This special limited edition from the Mimicry literary journal team, is printed in three colours (blue, yellow and pink), hand stitched, illustrated by Kate Depree with line drawings of little bits and pieces (a thimble, a leaf, those bread bag tags, a chess piece (notably just a pawn), a reel of cotton, an ant, a screw, a ring… and more) for the endpapers along with specific drawings to illustrate the texts. The writings include an email message, a tweet, some short poems, a headline and a list. The writers include Ashleigh Young, Kirsten McDougall, Courtney Sina Meredith, Henry Cooke and Uther Dean. Each day I have a new favourite page - today it is the email extract from Guy Montgomery “I had my headphones in, Google maps open and no music playing: the perfect crime.”  Only a few pages long, it is surprising how much pleasure this little publication gives - a reminder that it pays to slow down and look at each page with awareness, to read carefully, to explore, think and enjoy. The hand-made aesthetic definitely adds to the pleasure of Minicry, the illustrations are simple yet spot on, and the writing is brief and thoughtful, full of humour and pathos. 

Pulse Points by Jennifer Down    {Review by STELLA}
Pulse Points could have been named Nerve Endings. Jennifer Down’s short story collection starts quietly, feeling much like many slice-of-life episode tales. It’s not long into the stories that the tempo increases and you are struck by the edginess of these moments. These pulse points. I wondered about the title: why pulse points? As I read on, I felt I was standing beside each protagonist, a silent witness to their loss, despair, realisations and moments of clarity: as a reader taking their pulse - watchful and caring. Often in short stories, the lives of the characters can be fleeting, sometimes forgettable. Down has a knack of making each one count, largely due to her skill at capturing those small moments of anger, self-doubt, love and failing that make us human. There is nothing out of the ordinary here, yet one feels that every moment is special, is defined for just that person, a turning point, a resting point or a moment of connection. In 'Aokigahara' a sister makes a pilgrimage to the final resting place of her brother. The story is evocative and captures the strange forest known as The Sea of Trees, as well as the difficulties of a family dealing with suicide. In 'We Got Used to Here Fast', two siblings are whisked away from their depressive mother to a happier life with their grandparents. On their tedious, long and unsettling journey, they stop for the night in the middle of nowhere, parked in front of a huge satellite dish. Two smaller satellite dishes provide a portal for telling secrets, a connection for Sam and Lally which never falters, despite the hardships that come later in their lives. 'Vox Clamantis' sees Abby having to pretend to be still engaged to the self-centred Johnny. His mother is dying and she is fond of Abby. You sit, on edge, in the car with Johnny, and, like Abby, are riven by both frustration and compassion. These stories are set in both America and Australia, in small towns where characters are simultaneously sucked down, suffocated and protected by the nature of a close community, in cities which are anonymous, free and lonely, and in the suburbs which are safe, yet yell drudgery. The landscapes are rich in emotion and charged with electricity. Yet these dim in comparison to the rawness, the closeness and the sparking dialogue and relationships between the characters, their internal emotional lives, their human failings and achievements, the violence that infiltrates their lives or the sadness that captures them unsuspectingly. These stories at all turns are tragic and tender. Down keeps a fine finger on the pulse.

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