Each month we will publish a review from a past issue of Landfall. This month’s review is from Landfall 56, published in 1960 under the editorship of Charles Brasch. The review is by Ruth Dallas, who discusses Australian short-stories.
Coast to Coast, Australian Stories 1957-58. Selected by Dal Stivens. Angus and Robertson. 21S. West Coast Stories, edited by H. Drake-Brockman. Angus and Robertson. 20S.
If a New Zealand reader had no other Australian book on his shelves than these two collections of short stories, he would still be face to face with the abundance, freedom and assurance of the Australian short story, in comparison with the scarcity and nervousness of our own. The more Australian short stories I read, the more I am impressed by the relaxed and unselfconscious manner of the Australian short-story writer, when he is at his best. I should go so far as to say that if a New Zealand short-story writer were to neglect the study of the Australian story, it would be equivalent to neglecting the study of our own; it might even be more serious; for across the Tasman they are bringing in a fine harvest from land that with us is still being cleared. This is not meant to imply that good work has not been done here, as it has, of course, and is still being done; nothing could replace our own; but there is not very much of it; the Australian work is at once a rich addition and a challenge. These collections give an isolated, but very fair illustration of the kind of story Australian writers are winning from situation and character similar to our own (so like, and yet so unlike), and the use that is being made of the language of city and bush. Most of the stories are about ordinary folk, working men and women, coal-miners, gold-miners, farmers, new Australians, fishermen, housewives, mill-workers, teachers. The reader becomes aware of heat, fine-weather, space, and, most of all, of life lived out-of-doors. There is no story with sufficient poetic depth to amaze the reader or to wake a change in his mind, with the power of great art; but the Australian story is in a very healthy state; it is from this kind of abundance and ease that great writing at last emerges.