One of Australia's most respected and admired writers, Murray Bail's wry humour and haunting power are fully realised in these compelling stories.
In the brilliant title story 'Camouflage' Eric Banerjee, an unassuming Adelaide piano tuner is sent north to contribute to Australia's war effort in 1942. His experiences unexpectedly become some of the happiest of his life.
Accompanying it is one of Bail's masterly pieces of short fiction, 'The Seduction of My Sister', a weird and compelling account of sibling rivalry and love.
Murray Bail's short stories have been published widely both in Australia and the UK and have also appeared in the New Yorker magazine. His much-loved novel Eucalyptus, was the winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize and The Miles Franklin Award.
'Both these stories are remarkable, in utterly different ways: they exhibit the restraint and license of a true literary master.' Peter Craven, Australian Book Review
A host of distinctive, genuine characters, all at the mercy of life's folly and its slapdash potential, parade through Australian writer Bail's unconventional new collection of 14 short stories. Devoid of any kind of unifying theme, the volume includes several tales that play out as bizarre, abstract vignettes, while others are stunningly vivid and affecting, as in the standout opening story "The Seduction of My Sister." In it, a boy who feels that his younger sister is a terrible pest concocts an increasingly dangerous outdoor game with a new neighbor. Lobbing progressively larger household items back and forth over the rooftops makes for hours of amusement, until his sister poses the ultimate dare. The vacuum of smalltown life may have gotten the better of Sid in "Life of the Party." Perched high and dry in his son's tree house, Sid observes as neighbors and friends congregate drunkenly in his backyard for a barbecue he never bothers to host. In "Huebler," a man embarks on the "strange ambitious task" of photographing every living person and cataloguing each in a uniquely identifying category, i.e., "At least one person who may outlive art." In the title story, middle-aged Eric Banerjee, a married Adelaide piano tuner, is drafted in 1943 and sent to Australia's Northern Territory. After surmounting some initial shyness, he bonds with the other men in his troop, conceding that these are indeed "his happiest days." Bail (Homesickness) is at his strongest when writing from the shadowy corners of suburbia, much like A.M. Homes. The book's organizational structure suffers from a jarring irregularity, and a few entries, though they demonstrate the author's love of all things peculiar, seem thrown in as afterthoughts. Still, this is an illuminating, dexterously written collection, wildly uneven but uniformly potent.