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AWW 2013: Amanda Curtin's Inherited

Amanda Curtin’s Inherited

 

Precision is what comes to my mind, first.

Amanda Curtin likes to write about connections, between person to person, between person and object, person and landscape. And about how those connections make us feel. Or why they are unique to us. Why they don’t make any sense or at least a different kind of sense to others. The back cover blurb for the book tells us:

 

 

Inherited brings together stories about the gifts and burdens we inherit from the world or from those we love, and what we, in turn, leave behind.

Inherited is her latest collection of short stories. And every word in each story belongs there and feels as if it has been placed there on purpose. Writing always solicits a reaction in the reader and in each short story, she manages to tease out the reaction she wants throughout, building up until you get to the pay off.

 I remember a house of four generations. There will be no-one to remember me.

– Excerpt from Cradle of Shadows, in Inherited by Amanda Curtin

This is not a book you can expect not to be deeply involved in. She takes you in and if you don’t come quietly, she will drag you into the landscape of her stories. Dance Memory makes you catalogue the confusion, the fear, the struggle to understand what exactly it is that is important to certain people. At That Point gives you a lesson in different kinds of love and the choices about priorities you don’t ever want to make. Synapses gives you an insight into just how curiosity can become a habit and in how there is a hole left in your identity if you have nothing to relate yourself back to, no one to hold a mirror to and catch the bits of your reflection in.

Perhaps my mother was a Parisienne whore.
Perhaps my mother was minor European royalty and I, her bastard princess.
Perhaps my mother gave birth to me the day before she was hanged.
Perhaps my mother died a virgin and I was a holy child.
I could play that game forever.
– Excerpt from Synapses in Inherited by Amanda Curtin

There are other stories here – stories about sound designers recording the silences in rooms, about men who hear dead wive’s voices, people who collect corks. Things that all sound strange and odd and weird but when you read Inherited you realise that this is normal, these are the quirks real people have, these are the stories people could tell you if they thought anyone was interested in listening. And in the last story Gratitude we find exactly that as a journalist dives deeper into the grief of a mother who lost her son to a hit and run accident.

Henry Carlson’s mother told him she’d had a boy who was a pirate, who had an interest in petunias and liked Star Wars and was picky about his muffins, and she’d loved him for seven years and loved him still, and he was everywhere now.

– Excerpt from Gratitude in Inherited by Amanda Curtin

The short story is an exercise in restraint and evocation, a lesson in the bootstrapping of words so that every word on the page earns it place. The readers must be told a story in a set number of words –  a story, not an impression, or an idea, but a story with characters, with action, with resolution. It must leave them wanting or wondering what the sequel is, how it would continue on, what happened next to these people they meet in such a slapdash, dropped into your life for a brief moment kind of way.

Amanda Curtin has mastered it.

Author: Amanda Curtin
Genre: Short story anthology
Publisher: UWA Publishing
Publication Date: 2011

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

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