peteg's blog - noise - books - 2007 02 22 Robertson Proudflesh

Deborah Robertson: Proudflesh

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A collection of short stories. I enjoyed her effort in the Big Issue and so managed to extract this book from the chaos that is the UNSW Library undergoing massive physical reorganisation.

I think the Western Australia Premier's book awards reviewers more-or-less nailed it:

Proudflesh is a collection of coolly cynical stories about the contemporary world, concerned particularly with connections and relationships between people as well as their foibles and stimulants. Its range of interests is wide: popular cultural forms, psychology, addictions, missed connections, love, obsessions, loneliness. Most of these stories have a sharp edge; the writing is always controlled and self-consciously literary.

It's the last bit that kills some of the stories, the self-conscious literary style, the substitution of enumeration for description, the invocation of a name that connotes all to her and naught to me. Still, as David Malouf ably demonstrates, writers tend to begin like this and amble towards naturality.


  • Consuming Passions (I and II). These are character sketches of two women whose lives happen to intersect in London, concluding in a rather lamely observed powerplay.
  • Living Arrangements, an easy-come-easy-go entanglement. I couldn't help but compare it to David Malouf's Every Move You Make (from the recent collection of the same name), similarly told from a woman's perspective.
  • The Human Kiss, a tale of a woman moving in with a man with kids, one of whom has a heroin addiction. The portrayal of split loyalties is excellent, though the drug theme is fairly standard and unenlightening, somewhat like Helen Garner's efforts without the levity.

The title story, Proudflesh, is available online.