Peripheral Vision (Paddy O’Reilly, UQP)
This near-perfect short-story collection from Paddy O’Reilly is so blackly comic and bitingly clever that it makes you wonder what it feels like to live with such a masterful command of language and style. It is not cleverness for the sake of being clever, but genuinely inventive and ingenious plots borne out in spare, coruscating language. ‘Procession’ paints a picture of a dystopian world where dogs have started walking on their hind legs and rising up against their masters. Out of this initially absurd premise, O’Reilly crafts a razor-sharp story of teenage rebellion and clueless parents who hold each other accountable when their daughter starts barking in the backyard. In ‘The Salesman’, the dusty quiet of suburban streets becomes the setting for understated violence and inured hardship; while in ‘One Good Thing’, O’Reilly takes a look at the limits of primary school friendships. The only problem with this collection is that sometimes the stories can fall short by ending too abruptly, leaving you wanting more. But this also proves how effectively they get under your skin. O’Reilly is an expert at exploring the complexities of our world and the messes we make of it, and Peripheral Vision is the work of an author at the top of her form.
Hilary Simmons is a former assistant editor at Books+Publishing and a freelance reviewer and journalist