These short stories are often a case of art imitating life, where there are frequently no neat endings.
This is the first collection of short stories by Dominic Carew to be published, although he has previously won and been nominated for various awards – winning the 2016 Sydney Writers’ Room Short Story Competition for Defect which is included in this collection.
It tells the tale of a father who buys a new pair of shorts and what transpires when his son, a law student, points out a barely perceptible mark on them. The moment he speaks, the son knows he has said the wrong thing as he knows it will set father off on an all-too-familiar path.
Carew’s writing skilfully invokes a picture of a man whose life is governed by rules and proper behaviours. To him, returning the defective shorts is perfectly acceptable and yet he is totally blind to the embarrassment he is causing his son, the lack of understanding of the shop assistants, and the confusion of the police as he recites sections of consumer legislation, which may or may not be accurate.
Many of the protagonists in this collection are men who fail to understand themselves and/or the world around them. Carew has written of problems with sex, work, drink and relationships with understanding and empathy for the dysfunctional characters he has created. Although the stories are often sad and some have a suggestion of menace, there is still a sense of seeking a happier ending – some light in the darkness – within the stories, even if it doesn’t materialise.
In Epiphany the rich man in the tale, lazing around in his pool, is the perfect consumer believing that buying more stuff – flash cars, in his case – will make him happy. It is something which all of us who have been sucked in by advertising can well appreciate, right up to the moment we discover that it isn’t enough to satisfy us. For the protagonist the garage itself becomes a problem, because it is too small for the next new car he wants to buy and so the problem continues but in another form.
If this all sounds depressing, believe me it’s not. The author’s narrative and descriptive skills present us with characters we can most likely identify with and recognise from our own friends and family, and at the same time, perhaps gain some insight into their behaviours. These short stories are often a case of art imitating life, where there are frequently no neat endings.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Distributed by: Midnight Sun Publishing
Released: February 2020