Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

December 31, 2012

Review – Bluegrass Symphony by Lisa L. Hannett

One last review for 2012, and one last entry for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012. This will be a quick one because it’s New Year’s Eve and I have to go see in 2013 by reading comics and falling asleep long before midnight. I’d blame this weakness on the kids, but frankly the annual turn of the calendar hasn’t exerted much pull on me for the last decade or so. Not being a fan of fireworks or getting drunk in public, NYE has sod-all to recommend it. Unlike the subject of this review, Bluegrass Symphony by Lisa L. Hannett.

Bluegrass Symphony is a collection of twelve short stories by Lisa L. Hannett, published by Ticonderoga Press. Though an Australian writer, Hannett has set her stories in unspecified parts of the US south. They are fantastic, exploring new takes on ghosts, vampires, werewolves and other things in a voice that seems (to my untrained ear) authentically Southern Gothic. These are beautiful stories, even the ugly ones – and a few of them are very dark indeed. In particular the chilling and repulsive vampires of “From the Teeth of Strange Children” touch not only on the horrific amorality of immortal blood drinkers but also the twisted sexuality of the vampire legend in ways I’ve not seen before.

These are all strong dark fantasy tales. Most are not as out and out horrific as “Teeth”, but they all have at least a tantalising undercurrent of darkness. The standouts are probably “Down the Hollow” in which a community’s grotesque fertility rite goes wrong, and the astonishing “The Short Go: a future in eight seconds”, which wraps together rodeo riding, minotaur hunting, divination and marriage rites together to amazing effect. It deservedly shared the Aurealis Award for Best Short Story this year with Paul Haines’ “The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burned”, and that was a breathtaking piece.

I’ve digressed, so let me mention one more story. The collection opens with a short, dreamlike piece called “Carousel”, without doubt my favourite in the book. It’s one of the shorter stories, a beautiful elegaic piece about a dying girl being comforted in her final moments by moths. It’s heartbreaking and funny and somewhat grotesque, and it has a lovely punchline. It sets the tone for the rest of Bluegrass Symphony wonderfully well.

1 Comment »

  1. […] almost as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Lexifabricographer posted a wonderful review of Bluegrass Symphony as part of the Australian Women Writers 2012 challenge. I love how, in each review, different […]

    Pingback by A Miscellany of Links, New and Old « Lisa Hannett — January 7, 2013 @ 9:25 pm

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