Book Review: In This Desert, There Were Seeds
Edited by Elizabeth Tan and Jon Gresham
Published by Margaret River Press in collaboration with Ethos Books
My copy courtesy of the publisher
Notable stories in the collection include Alicia Tuckerman's 'Glass', which shows the final dismantling of a relationship played out on a West Australian beach; Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes' 'Maqdala 1868/ London 2018' in which an Ethiopian security guard at the V and A grapples with a growing sense of complicity as he polices the public's involvement with stolen artefacts from his homeland; and 'Flies' by Jay Anderson, a tender portrait of friendship, identity and the pain of being different set against the vivid backdrop of a small Australian town.
The perspectives in these pieces is often confronting or upsetting-- sea levels rise, the government cracks down on a man when an illegal watermelon begins to grow on his verge, a man installs surveillance equipment in the apartments of his neighbours in an effort to help them. These pieces show our future dream as a possible future nightmare, and it is the fact that these things are possible which makes the stories so frightening. Other stories are tender and heartbreaking, such as the opening story, 'Harihara' by Cyril Wong, or 'Death Lilies' by Rashida Murphy, which take the theme back down to a personal, individual level, guiding the reader through the ins and outs of human relationships in gentle, poetic prose, pinpointing the emotional truths in staggering precision.
It is important to take into account also that the collection includes the voices of both established writers and those who are just starting out on their publishing careers. As is the case in any multi-authored anthology, some of the stories resonated with me, while others I struggled to understand. The quality of the writing varies, as does the styles.
Overall, though, this barely matters as the reader is swept up in twenty visions of where we are now and where we are going, and introduces or reintroduces us to some of the most important literary voices of our shared geographical region.
In this Desert, There were Seeds is available now from Margaret River Press and can be purchased with free shipping here.