Just look at this beautiful cover – I think this might be one of my favourite GR covers: so many gorgeous pastel colours, so much potential in those bottles. And it turns out that you CAN judge a book by its cover because this edition of Griffith Review 70 Generosities of Spirit (Griffith University 2020), edited as usual by the indomitable Ashley Hay, is an absolute corker. Not only does this edition contain some great essays and poetry but it includes the four winners of The Novella Project VIII, which are just a joy to read.
Although Griffith Review is always such a wonderful mix of genres, I have to admit that sometimes I find some editions quite heavy (with remarkable essays that I am perhaps not quite intelligent enough to fully appreciate! Ha.) But editions like this one are exactly my favourite – fantastic fiction and creative non-fiction that take me away to imaginary places.
Ashley Hay once again provides a thoughtful introduction, this time about samples of gifts and giving (tales from inner lives) – very appropriate for this time of year – and some reflections about the year we’ve had and how we’re all keen to turn over the calendar and start afresh for 2021.
One of my favourite pieces in this edition is Kris Olsson’s extract from her work-in-progress, this contribution entitled Invisible Histories: Excavating the Buried Past. Kris opens with encouraging us to imagine ourselves as birds, flying high above the earth and back through the millennia of time, as we visualise ancient Australia before it was even a continent. Combining geology and history with personal anecdotes, Kris writes so evocatively and poignantly about belonging and place, and about our complicated settler-colonial history. Along with snippets from her own family narrative, Kris is determined to ‘find my own root and branch, and who and what shaped the ground that held them, that grew me.’ It is a stunning piece.
The four Novella winners are also examples of exemplary writing, and congratulations to the winners in what was I’m sure a very competitive field. In Inheritance, Kate Veitch gifts us a moving contemporary story about a woman coming to know her father only after his death, the secrets she uncovers about him and about herself, the new relationships she discovers, the meaning she finds in unexpected places. Mikele Prestia’s story, The Half-Life of Ant Zaniolo, is about family and memory, childhood and sibling dynamics, and the complicated nature of grief. Mount Trepidation, by Rhianna Boyle is a warm but confronting piece about illness and loss, and the families we choose to make for ourselves. Nature – and the mountain – are at the heart of this story. It’s also funny and heart-warming, with a surprising ending. The final winner, Claire G. Coleman, writes in her trademark futuristic style in her story The Mists of Down Below. While clearly speculative fiction, this piece draws deeply on our own 2020 pandemic, extrapolating where we might be if the worst were to happen. This is a tense and gripping story, strongly connected to Country, with a shocking and terrifying conclusion that I certainly hope is not prescient.
Also in this issue is beautiful poetry by Tony Birch, Geoff Page, Zenobia Frost, Mark O’Flynn, Rebecca Jessen, Ian C. Smith and Jennifer Harrison, along with a wonderful collaboration between Eileen Chong and Lisa Gorton. The other non-fiction contributors, besides Kris Olsson, are Linda Neil who talks about transforming healing through pleasure, Thomas Mayor and Joelle Gergis. And we are treated to more fiction from Allanah Hunt (Blue and Black, a heart-breaking and poignant exploration of race relations and friendship) and Adam Thompson (Sonny, a story of difference, regret, remorse, betrayal and shame).
This is indeed an extraordinary issue of Griffith Review and one I urge you to buy, read and share.