The opening story in this collection admirably represents the author’s view that nothing is too difficult or out of bounds.
The author’s inspiration and some themes of this collection are revealed in the final chapter, Reflections of Shadows, of this slim volume. Michael Giacometti explains his major creative motivation was his single-handed trek across the Simpson Desert in July 2009. The experiences of this solo expedition, along with living and working in outback Australia, encouraged him to study and pursue a writing career. He is now based in Alice Springs.
A further influence was his interest in Buddhist belief systems which are mirrored in the universality and circularity of some of these tales – as seen in the apparent timelessness of the setting of stories such as The Uncoupling of Eduardo Martinez.
In examining the intersections of dream and reality, identity and history, the author has created a collection of many different voices in this book. The line between reality and fiction is blurred in many of his stories. He sounds like a keen footballer in the story Geometry,which describes the routine of a training session. The actions and reactions are designed to become second nature, almost automatic, but this raises the question of how then can a different outcome be expected from this losing team?
Another losing team come together in Ulysses of the Pacific as HMS Anateus sails for ten years in search of Mount Purgatory – the author’s take on the story of Ulysses and the sirens. In the epigraph to the story Giacometti writes that the ship was guided by the ghosts of Dante and Virgil but I was annoyed by the extensive Latin quotations. I always think it is showing off on the part of the author not to provide translations. I was also left wondering about the point of this story. Is it our endless quest for meaning and the desire to believe in some powerful force in the universe? It cannot be accidental that the climax of the voyage takes place on Easter Sunday and only one person is left on the ship.
One can see Giacometti bringing ‘real life’ into his short stories as when the Ministry of Found is destroyed by a plane being flown into it – only, in this case, it really was set up by government. When the Minister disappears in Minister for Lost,the circularity and repetitive nature of government departments is highlighted by the new Minister who begins his new job having lost his phone and can’t even find a pen!
The opening story, my abbr.d life, is written from the perspective of an abused and deceased six year old Aboriginal girl and sadly, could easily be real. In the story, Giacometti challenges Indigenous and the wider Australian culture as he writes about the mother who seeks to drown the sorrow of the Stolen Generation in alcohol; the violence she endures from men; the neglect the girl suffers from her mother and the care she gets from her grandmother. The opening story in this collection admirably represents the author’s view that nothing is too difficult or out of bounds to be used as a subject, a character or viewpoint in his writing.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Distributed by: Spineless Wonders
Released: December 2017