- Molly Guys story collection Reading Between the Lines
- (Ginninderra Press, 2009)
Some of you this evening will remember Australian Short Stories, which used to be
published by Bruce Pascoe and Lyn Hughes. It would arrive four times a year and its
contents pages read like a whos who of Australian literary fiction writers. It often
included well-known Tasmanian storywriters such as Barney Roberts, Elizabeth Dean, Geoff
Dean, G. W. (Smokey) Robinson and Giles Hugo. And among these luminaries was Molly Guy.
I can still remember receiving issue 3 of Australian Short Stories in 1983 and finding
Mollys story On hearing you tan in the snow, too
between stories by Archimede Fusillo and Frank Hardy. In those days I knew Molly slightly
through FAW and I marvelled that this small, delicate-looking, reclusive young woman had
such a wicked way with words.
Then in 1989 in issue 28 of Australian Short Stories, this time between Gillian
Mears and Janine Burke, Bruce Pascoe published nine connected vignettes that were the
beginning of Mollys novel-in-progress Brain
Death Capital. Bruce Pascoe published this book in 1991.
Molly moved to the Tasman Peninsula and from there
her next book of stories Terminal Velocity was
taking shape. She had continued to have stories published widely for instance in
the FAWs sell-out 1990 anthology Storyline,
in Australian Short Stories while it was still
in existence, in Island, Overland and Southerly.
Velocity was published by Interactive Press in 2003 and was launched here in Hobart
Bookshop. Some of us here probably havent seen Molly since then as I said
earlier, she is reclusive. But shes also a dedicated writer and has been beavering
away down there at Eaglehawk Neck, working on the stories in this latest collection from
Ginninderra Press, Reading Between the Lines. It
contains 35 stories of varying lengths (a few ultra micro) and with some intriguing titles
such as More Lost Sock Laundrette, Meeting Margaret (Scott),
Zoloft, Neoprene, The Ugly Duck Café and Men
Ive Met/Heard of Named John.
For people who dont know Mollys work,
Id like to read some comments other writers have made about it. I assume it was
Bruce Pascoe who wrote of Brain Death Capital:
inventive Tasmanian novelist satirises the night and day life of the Apple Isle in this
rollicking and irreverent satire of sex, drugs, rock and roll, and dogs. If you can
imagine the Dharma Bums on the road to Hobart you get the idea.
Blurbs on the back of Terminal Velocity read:
are a quirky crop. Molly Guy brings together wittily observed reality and her own brand of
magic to deliver some revelatory accounts of life beyond the comfort zone. The energy she
creates sheds light on misfits struggling in a nightmare world, and puts the heat on the
indifferent, the hypocritical and the smug. Margaret Scott
Then David Owen writes:
the nth, Terminal Velocity delivers
line after line thats as good as any contemporary stand-up, is as clever as early
Woody Allen, as inventive as Russell Hoban, as off-the-wall as Richard Brautigan. Best of
all its top class Australian fiction.
And in Famous
Reporter, Philomena Van Rijswijk wrote:
one suspects that it is not a book at all, but perhaps a crocheted doily studded
with beer tabs or a polystyrene model of the Taj Mahal. Molly Guy breaks every written and
unwritten rule of fiction. Fiction Schmiction! I loved it.
I draw your attention to Philomenas words on
this latest book of stories and Id like to give you some morsels of
Mollys writing from it. For instance, on page 15 in Arrhythmia she tells
the world go round. As well it leaves chaos and rancour in its wake. She wouldnt be
without rancour or chaos for quids. When you were hopping mad, you knew for certain you
were alive, and kicking still.
As a now-elderly parent, I found myself
identifying to a certain extent, and rather uncomfortably, with the mother in
Cord. I found these words on page 22 particularly chilling:
- Its a
Rottweiler-eat-chihuahua world where only the fittest survive and at the first hint of
mechanical failure/dementia you abandon your wheels, job, pet, partner, parent. You shop
for a new lover, sugar mummy, Porsche, penthouse pet.
Doesnt his mother know anything!
Had nobody ever thought to tell her the facts of life?
In the story Cement, Rowena lives with
her husband and three children named Dougal, Duncan
and Hamish in honour of their dead Scottish grandfather. Their house was once part of
a battery chicken farm and the yard consists of layers of compacted fowl manure, which the
boys dig up to use as building materials. So far
theyve built a chicken-shit Guggenheim museum, a couple of chicken manure four-wheel
drives and a dog kennel. The last structure is for the familys Irish wolfhound
Nessie, who gives it a wide berth.
Molly tells us on page 40:
Dougal particularly are very interested in forensic pathology. Theyre interested in
how long ittakes a dysfunctional family to get its shit together a mother to get
over the death of a parent. Will it be months or years before their dad is completely
bald? Will he still be lovable when his head looks like an eyeball?
But, going back to page 28, in Owls we
meet Carmel whos a busybody, a snoop, a voyeur, an eavesdropper, a sticky-beak, and
a peeping tom.
We meet Carmel again on the next page in the title
story Reading Between the Lines. Im going to read that to you. But
dont become restive; it consists of one 14-word sentence that isnt, strictly
speaking, a sentence at all:
Reading Between the Lines
sitting in the dark in an art house cinema having a sub-titled experience.
How micro is that?
What you are pondering what film Carmel might be
watching, Ill declare Reading Between the
Lines launched and while we have Molly here in Hobart, I invite her to read to us.
- Robyn Mathison
- November 24th 2009