Review | Meanjin A-Z: Fine Fiction

Title: Meanjin A-Z: Fine fiction to now 
Editor: Jonathan Green
Published: 30 April 2018
Publisher: Melbourne University Press
Category: Fiction, anthology


Meanjin A-Z: Fine fiction 1980 to now is the first short fiction anthology from Meanjin, one of Australia’s oldest literary journals. The anthology is edited by Jonathan Green, the current editor of the journal.

In the opening Editor’s Note, Green acknowledges Meanjin’s origin story and states ‘short fiction is no longer much the stuff of mainstream entertainment’.

Review | Meanjin A-Z: Fine Fiction

I’m not sure I agree. Surely the accolades bestowed on short story collections in recent years – think Maxine Beneba Clarke’s Foreign Soil, Ryan O’Neill’s Their Brilliant Careers and Melanie Cheng’s Australia Day – suggest short fiction occupies a prominent place in contemporary Australian literature.

Green also offers no explanation for why he chose these particular twenty short stories. This intrigued me. If the goal of Meanjin (and by extension this collection) is ‘to explore our changing self through the gimlet eye of the Australian writer’ (p. ix), why choose these writers? Why a story by Tim Winton and not Peter Carey? And setting aside the question of why these writers, why these stories by these writers? I do not expect there to be a definitive answer, of course. Choice is subjective and the prerogative of the editor. But as a reader, I remain curious as to the why of what went in and what was left out.

Reading the collection gave me a wonderful sense of nostalgia. I was born in 1981, and this collection encapsulates the changes in the literary landscape that have occurred during my lifetime. However, my nostalgia was often broken, as the order of the stories meant I bounced back and forth in time, from Briony Doyle’s 2013 ‘In Season’ to Peter Goldsworthy’s 1987 ‘Requiescat in Pace’ to Rosalie Ham’s 2002 ‘Isolation’. The collection is published alphabetically by the authors last name, and I found this counter intuitive.

Meanjin A-Z: Fine fiction 1980 to now draws on the vast fiction archive held by Meanjin. It is an inviting proposition: emersion in a collection of short fiction written by some of the best Australian writers. Despite my questions for Green, this is a lovely read, especially for those who adore short fiction.

Reviewed by Astrid Edwards, co-founder of The Garret and Deputy Chair of Writers Victoria. Follow Astrid on Goodreads, Instagram and Twitter.