In a constant tizz

In a constant tizz
Rhonda Dredge

Young writers often come up through the university system, studying creative writing, doing a Masters of Fine Arts, attracting a stipend while they do a PhD. Paul Dalla Rosa is an example of this style of writer with connections to RMIT and an MFA from New York State.

He’s also a resident of North Melbourne, a suburb that nurtures writers.

If the stories in An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life, are anything to go by, it’s not easy surviving in New York while you’re trying to develop a voice.

In fact, it’s not easy for any of the characters in this debut book of short stories. They all seem to be worn down by circumstances such as aggressive cats, high expectations at work, lack of food and things never seem to get better even when the reader is empathic with their woes.

Is this the condition of modern life or is it possible for a writer to raise his or her sights a tad from the terrible disappointments of $3000 padded shirts that look bad on arrival and can’t be returned and the host of other punitive measures that society foists on its citizens?

There is not much joy in this collection. The title indicates where some might be found but it is, of course, ironic.

The stories show a strong sense of narrative drive, however, suggesting to this reviewer that the writer might find more redemption in a novel.

These sweeps of character are quite enjoyable. The girl who has the vicious cat tries valiantly to keep it away from her tenant, jeopardising her job, love life and sanity in the process.

The cat is full-on as is the sales manager in a fashion store who will do anything to be noticed by the label owner who is about to arrive on an unscheduled visit.

Some gestures are ridiculous, such as the trip to hospital emergency to deal with a pimple, but the way the cat scampers around the apartment is clever and so are the baddies in New York who insinuate themselves into the drama.

The American idea of the dead beat works well to spice up the confessional and auto-fictional style favoured at Australian universities.

Writers need to branch out. Just because you’re young and gay and love the internet doesn’t mean you can’t find larger themes than looking good on it.

Colm Toibin put his repressed, lovelorn characters in locations that opened them up to possibilities rather than disappointments.

New York might have seen better days when our hero arrived, but the city is usually full of starry-eyed visitors.

The stories in this collection work best when the characters are forced to deal with specific scenarios rather than drift through mood pieces such as sunbaking in Majorca.

Facts stick in the mind of a reader and work well in the opening line of a story as a hook.

“The court awarded damages” is the first sentence in the brilliant final story In Bright Light, which deals with the complications of life upfront and puts the narrator in a constant tizz.

An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life, Paul Dalla Rosa, Allen & Unwin, 2022 •

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