The Glove Box and Other Stories by Viviene Plumb, Spineless Wonders 2014 was launched on Saturday 16 August 2014 at the NSW Writers Centre by Shady Cosgrove. This is what she had to say:
I’m honoured to be standing before you all tonight. I remember the first time I heard of Vivienne Plumb. Alan Wearne, the poet, who works with me at the University of Wollongong, said: ‘I’ve been having these great conversations with a writer I think you’d like. Her name is Vivienne Plumb. She’s interested in doing her DCA with us.’ Her CV certainly stacked up but it was when I read her prose that I knew: ‘Yes, this is someone with a beautiful turn of phrase, someone who understands how detail stitches the larger image, how words give way to images which give way to scenes.’ Little did I know then that tonight, many years into the future, I would be launching The Glove Box and other Stories: a product of her DCA that I was lucky enough to supervise.
A few of the things I love about The Glove Box and other Stories are: the breadth of character, the exquisite use of original detail, the clarity of the writing on a line by line level and the larger satisfaction that emerges when reading the collection.
In the first story, we have the book’s namesake, ‘The Glove Box’ that gives us a wonderful portrait of a woman, her appreciation for finding the odd button on the street, and her complex and beautiful relationships with her mother and sister. Here, in this story, we get the first glimpse of hitchhiking: as escape, as not quite against the law, as subversive.
And this idea of hitchhiking as liberation carries through the volume, and indeed, into the next story, ‘Why My Mother Never Hitchhiked’. This also follows the theme of mothers and daughters, and how subsequent generations make sense of their parents’ lives.
We also have your not so typical house intruder (in ‘Sixty Photos’), a straight talking narration about fear and how it’s pushed onto women and girls in public spaces (via ‘Spooky Gurl’), creepy truck drivers (in ‘Mortdale’), cult communities (in ‘The Blouse’), working in a hospital (‘Sampler’), and negotiating friendships through horrific circumstances (‘A High, White Ceiling’). – And please forgive the tangent here but one of the details in this story – the planes going overhead this inner city flat – still blows me away. Vivienne is marking time with a sound detail and increasing the story’s tension at the same time. It’s beautiful and dreadful, and the writing in this story does justice to its heart breaking themes. – There’s also ‘Floorplan’ that follows a woman writing her doctorate on women hitchhikers. And ‘Deep and Dangerous Undertow’ that’s quite explicitly about hitching.
My favourite story in the collection is ‘Efharisto’. It’s actually one of my favourite stories I’ve ever read. I remember when Vivienne emailed it to me and I was reading it at my desk, oblivious to emails chiming in my inbox, oblivious to the lecture I had to give in half an hour. I was completely pulled into the rhythm of the story and that starts with the very first sentence, which is a fragment: ‘When he said.’ And the story is about fragmentation. It’s about physical fragmentation and how painful this can be when you’re the mother of an ill child. Right near the end, the story reads: ‘Is there a roof to the sky? I asked myself that question. I knew the answer – there is a roof or a lid to everything and that is to ensure that you only have just that much and no more of any one thing in your life. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to bear it.’
I was like, ‘What can I write in the margins of this?’ I was weeping.
I think this story is powerful because it captures the hard stuff of the human condition in a way that’s powerful and beautiful at the same time. Literature, eh?
But that’s not to say that this is a dark set of stories. There is darkness – I think that’s inevitable in any collection of stories that’s looking at risk and freedom – but there’s also wit, charm and humour, driven by these eccentric characters. And the characters really do make this volume. After rereading this collection, I thought: wouldn’t it be quite a dinner if you could invite all these characters round for a barbie. Wouldn’t that be something else?
In conclusion, thank you Bronwyn for another great publication. Your support for literature gives me hope. Well done, Vivienne. I’m so proud to have been involved with this collection, in my small way. To feasting with these characters.
I officially launch The Glove Box and other Stories.
– Shady Cosgrove
Shady Cosgrove is a senior lecturer at the University of Wollongong. Her books include What the Ground Can’t Hold (Picador, 2013) and She Played Elvis (Allen and Unwin, 2009), which was shortlisted for the Australian/Vogel Award. Her short fiction and articles have appeared in Best Australian Stories, Overland, Southerly, Antipodes, the Age and and the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Glove Box and other Stories is available from http://shortaustralianstories.com.au/products-page/spineless_wonders_-paperbacks/the-glove-box/
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