Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: Scission by Tim Winton

Scission is an early collection of short stories by Australian author Tim Winton.  "Scission" is the theme that unites all of the stories.  And yes, the word had me running to the dictionary, I will freely admit. It means the tearing, or ripping apart of of something.

All of the stories highlight the moment when someone's world is split or torn apart.  For the majority of the 13 stories, the scission represents an emotional awakening where there are often, but not always, negative real world consequences.  It is a testamont to Winton's skill as a writer that he is able to describe this subterranean world of human emotion so vividly.

I loved these stories for many reasons. One reason is because the writing is as good as the writing in his best novels.  If anything, I have found that good writers bring an even sharper edge to their short fiction, that is certainly the case with Scission.  These stories hit the reader with an almighty visceral wallop,

The first story "Secrets" is about a young girl trying to come to terms with the changes in her family as a new step father takes over the power in her home.  "A Blow, A Kiss" is a moving portrayal of a father and son's insecurities, but underlying love for each other, as, on the way home from a day's fishing expedition, they come across a motor bike accident victim, on a deserted road.  "Neighbours" comments on multiculturalism in Australia, in a poignant tale of a newly wedded couple who, move into a house in a culturally diverse neighbourhood, and are awakened to understand that differences with their neighbours are tiny compared to what they all share. Although Winton wrote this story 25 years ago, it is a tale equally relevant, if not more needed, in the Australia of today.

All of the stories are really a preparation for the the last longer short story in the collection titled "Scission", it is about the collapse of a relationship with the worst possible outcome.  This story did unnerve me because as shocking and violent as the scenario is, we hear of relationships ending in death on a regular basis in the media, even today. 

Not all of Winton's writing will be to everyone's taste, at times he does appear to completely let go and his work can feel a bit disjointed and  abstract.  There is no spoon feeding here.  But I have found that by letting go myself and just absorbing the words without worrying about the exactness of things, the whole is revealed and usually leaves me gasping.  He is a fine, original writer.

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