Damaged in Transit (Mary Manning, Spineless Wonders)
Damaged in Transit is a collection of short stories from Melbourne writer Mary Manning. It charts familiar territory—journeys on trams, along highways and outback roads—but renders them unfamiliar through unusual characters and their curious actions. Sometimes I found it difficult to get a grip on these characters: they don’t necessarily come to life in the way you might want them to. Manning’s language is simple but lacks cadence, becoming clunky at times. For short stories to shine they need to be tight. The flow of the collection also feels inconsistent: some stories have an almost surreal feel to them while others are much more prosaic. Most stories seem to hinge on insignificant moments laboured into apparent climaxes, while some try too hard to shock, leaving the reader with no surprises. Small publishers such as Spineless Wonders give voice to the forms bigger publishers often steer away from, such as poetry, novellas and short story collections, which are essential to a strong literary culture. But it’s also essential they choose the right material. This collection doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Hannah Francis is a bookseller at the Younger Sun Bookshop in Yarraville