Spineless Wonders is a new, Northern Territory-based small publisher, specialising in short fiction. It is heartening to see a publisher championing shortstory collections, especially quality ones such as The Rattler, the debut collection by Melbourne writer (and bookseller) A S Patrić. These stories range from narrative experiments such as the chilling ‘B O M B S’, an oblique look at terrorism, to more playful pieces such as ‘Ducks’, which imagines Anais Nin and June Miller living out their autumn years in Elwood. Regardless of mood or technique, the stories are highly poetic, both in terms of their rhythmic use of language and the way in which they show quotidian objects and landscapes—Melbourne suburbia in particular—in a strange, often unsettling, new light. The only real exception is the title story, which lacks the assurance and edginess of the shorter pieces. Its central character Atticus quits his job as a tram driver in order to devote himself to writing about his tram-driving experiences. The experiences themselves, rather than Atticus’ struggles to document them, might have been more interesting to read about. But there are enough gems among the other 17 stories to impress any short-fiction enthusiast seeking a fresh and vibrant new voice.
David Cohen is a Brisbane-based writer and former bookseller. This review first appeared in the November 2011 issue of Bookseller+Publisher, which is available online here. (Spineless Wonders is now based in Sydney.)