Tonight I went to a book launch at Readings St Kilda, and had the pleasure of hearing A.S. Patric read from his new collection of short stories called Las Vegas for Vegans. I haven’t read the entire collection yet, but I’ve read enough to know that Patric is a most interesting author and I want him to finish his novel, please!
Paddy O’Reilly, author of The Fine Colour of Rust and The Factory, launched the book with some interesting thoughts about risk-taking for novelists. She said that risk-taking is satisfying, but that asking readers to explore difficult terrain where they may not like the answers needs good technical skills, that is, at the sentence level: the selection and arrangement of words. It takes precision but it’s worth it because the world we live in is always being challenged, and small things can make or unmake us. (I hope I’m not misquoting her, I tried using the Memo function on my phone tonight but I think I’ll use old-fashioned pencil and paper next time I want to take notes!)
So, does Patric succeed with the risks he takes? The opening paragraphs in his first story, Beckett and Son, certainly are attention-getters. When Devon’s father is writhing on the floor having a heart attack, the young man turns his iPod music up and walks away – and goes to work! Is it possible for a story like this to have an ending with a similar impact? Indeed yes. And so has the story that was read by a young actor whose name I didn’t catch: The Eternal City lulls the reader into drowsy unease, and then with extreme economy of words, Patric delivers the devastating final paragraph which takes a moment or two to register.
It was good to see Patric happily there at the launch with his wife and children and a whole bunch of friends, because we might otherwise have assumed that he’s led a troubled life. These stories feature fractured relationships, the frailty of truth and the treacherous way holidays can unravel. Clearly he is an astute observer of other people because he is masterly at evoking the slow-dawning recognition of betrayal.
This collection is staying on the coffee table chez moi, for dipping into at idle moments.
To read a sample, check out Measured Turbulence at the Meanjin blog.
A.S. Patric blogs here.
Author: A.S. Patric
Title: Las Vegas for Vegans
Publisher: Transit Lounge 2012
Source: Review copy courtesy of Transit Lounge
Availability: Direct from Transit Lounge