About half an hour before midnight on 31 December I announced on Twitter that the last book I’d read for the year happened to be the best book of 2013. The work in question was the short story collection Caution: Contains Small Parts written by my co host on the Writer and The Critic podcast, Kirstyn McDermott.
Maybe I’m a little biased. But then I’ve been biased about Kirstyn’s work since we first met in 1994 (I know twenty bloody years!). We first met at a meeting of the old Horror Writers Association in a pub in South Melbourne. Kirstyn, without introducing herself, pointed out a story in the latest issue of Bloodsongs (issue three for those who care) and asked me what I thought of it. I told her I loved it, which was a good thing because the story was called ‘And The Moon Yelps… ’ and she happened to be the author. It was an evil and mean thing to do. It was also the start of a beautiful relationship and my love for Kirstyn’s work.
So yes, I’m biased. But the fact is that this small collection of four stories, published by the wonderful Twelfth Planet Press, speaks for itself. The stories here are beautifully written, each word carefully chosen, each sentence builds on the one before, each —
— enough with the cliches.
This collection is visceral, each story provoking a different emotional reaction, whether it’s amazement and shock at the climax of ‘What Amanda Wants’ or gut wrenching sadness at the ending of the titular story. Sex Dolls. The Male Gaze. Fatherhood. Phallic symbols. The desire and need to feel pain. Broken people living broken lives. The Psychology of loneliness. I’m finding it hard to apply the usual platitudes when all I really want to say is that this book is fucking brilliant. And while that might mean a failure on my part as a critic, it doesn’t make the assessment any less true.
The bottom line: Kirstyn McDermott has always been an astonishing writer. This collection only emphasises that. Thank you for Twelfth Planet press for publishing this beautiful looking collection and continuing to publish fantastic short and long fiction from Australian writers.