Rich & Rare (Anthology) Paul Collins (ed) Publisher: Ford Street Publishing Format: Paperback Demographic: Upper primary and above RRP: $24.95 ISBN: 9781925272116 Reviewer: Tim Harris
Quality short story anthologies can be a rare delicacy these days. It is well then that Ford St has published Rich & Rare: A Collection of Australian Stories, Poetry and Artwork, a delightful smorgasbord of Aussie talent that's sure to have something for any reader to enjoy. Whatever your poison, be it side-bursting comedy, edge-of-your-seat action, drama that hits you right in the guts, delectable mysteries or sweet slice-of-life style pieces, this anthology has it. While many of the themes are particularly relevant for younger readers, the vast majority of these stories have enough depth and subtlety to satisfy palates both old and young. This combination of relevance to younger readers along with plenty of complexity to pick apart makes these stories as appropriate for classroom use as they are for general enjoyment.
The collection includes some very powerful pieces, such as 'The Bravest Person I Know' by Archimede Fusillo which is at once both heart-breaking and heart-warming. Also moving is 'I Can't Sleep' by Tracey Hawkins, which paints a vivid portrait of a family tearing itself apart.
After heavy pieces such as these, the comedic works come as welcome relief. The best of these include Leigh Hobbs' 'A Writer's Morning', which is greatly enhanced by his illustrations and far too relatable for this recently reformed student, and Michael Pryor's 'Magic for Sale', an extremely relatable fantasy parody which normalises the fantastic and suggests that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
There's some great non-parodic fantasy too, such as Paul Collins' 'The Black Sorrows' which makes interesting use of a deadline and other thriller elements to force the protagonist out of her comfort zone and raise the stakes of the adventure. Paul O'Sullivan contributes an illustration for most of the pieces, and his artwork for this story in particular really helps to convey the nature of the angel Wind. In 'The Green Boy', Kirsty Murray presents a whimsical, Gaimanesque story in which she explores the idea that there could be, or perhaps should be, more to this world than we see and know in a heartwarmingly bizarre tale about friendship.
Doug Macleod mixes in a strong dose of silliness with the creepier elements of his ghost story 'The Ghost in the Stereoscope'. His characterisation is great, and the story does a good job of exploring its preoccupation with the past, memories, secrets and the relations these things hold with the present. Sean McMullen's 'The Time Machine' is another piece in which the past, memories and legacies are key concerns. With its themes of illusion and the nature of reality along with the mystical weight of the dreams it relates, there's a lot for VCE English students studying the 'Whose Reality?' context to sink their teeth into.
The anthology also contains some interesting poetry. It ends very appropriately with Sherryl Clark's poem 'Story World', which really captures the allure of stories and the adventures they take us on to far away places.
For an overview of some of Australia's most promising talent and a delectable array of short fiction, Rich & Rare really hits the spot. With something for everyone, I would recommend this anthology for anyone who appreciates a good tale and reads for the joy of it.