When a Monkey Speaks: And Other Stories from Australia

Damian Sharp, Author HarperCollins Publishers $15 (213p) ISBN 978-0-06-258500-4
Dominated by the dramatic landscape of Australia and the emotional emptiness of outback machismo, the 11 stories in this dark debut collection are full of ominous surprises. Sharp, an Aussie living in San Francisco, favors an introspective, naturalistic approach, blending exposition, internal monologue and intricate description to tell tales that often focus on barely understood family and sexual tensions. The hot, brutal climate and bizarre features and creatures of the land add forbidding atmosphere while placing unique emotional limits on the actions of the characters. Although many of the stories start slowly and the development sometimes gets a bit murky, the explosive action in the better efforts justifies the occasional plodding plot. ``Boxing,'' for example, tells the tale of two brothers who resort to fisticuffs to resolve a difficult relationship with an inarticulate father who's been left by his wife. ``Carter's Creek'' documents the beginning of a man's attempt to swim the length of the Murray River in order to end a pattern of boredom and infidelity with his lover. And the title story captures the viewpoints of both members of a couple after the women's act of sexual betrayal separates them during a long train journey. Sharp is a significant talent. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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