Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: Making a Name and Other Stories, by Rosanne Dingli

There's a certain magic when a writer masters the short story form--as if one can see the cosmos in a cup of tea.

That was my experience as I read Australian writer Rosanne Dingli's Making a Name and Other Stories, that of seeing the world through the sharply defined circumference of a cupful of words.

The stories, set in Europe and Australia, often revolve around the artistic world. Painting, writing, and music either form the focus or enrich the texture of the stories. One enters the world of the characters and is almost hesitant to continue, as if intruding on the privacy and intimacy that is revealed, whether the setting is an artist's flat in France or an isolated farming station in Australia.

It may be that "At Dirrunbirdum station, everything was much the same as usual" in "Rainstorms," or that "What surprised me most of all was the dust" in the story "Dust Gathered in an Afternoon," or it may even be that "Portia is sitting in the garden because she doesn't like the smell of frying onions and we are having a quarrel," but in every case, there is a mystery, an individual secret that leads and entices, leads to the next paragraph.

The characters seem exotic, even when they are ordinary. This is due to Rosanne Dingli's ability to describe the individual uniqueness of the characters, their personal dignity and exotic extravagances. There is a revealing of personal triumphs and tragedies in these stories, of a mother who, "When she went, it was more a shock that she carried out her threat than a surprise," of Natalie, who finds a bottle: "But it was a strange one. Green glass, narrow neck, bulbous body. Very dirty. I wasn't interested," but then finds "Tiny writing on the inside of the bottle." These stories provide the reader the opportunity to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, the cosmos in the tea cup.

One short story, "The Submarine," provides insight into the experience of reading these stories. As we read, we are like the characters in the story who "examine the shimmering shield, the skin of the environment they know so much about now. Although they cannot see it from the dinghy, they can sense all the action, the life and death drama taking place below them."

Rosanne Dingli, in Making a Name and Other Stories, provides us with a portal, a perspective, that engages us in lives and loves that we have not quite seen that particular way before. Perhaps we will find out what the travelers in the submarine realize: "They have no real destination, of course. That is the whole point of the book, and the reader discovers this about halfway through."

Making a Name and Other Stories

 Copyright 2011 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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