17 June 2010

A shout out to 'Singing My Sister Down'

Decision days. You know the ones. Those days that stop you in your tracks. Or propel you forward when you have stalled. Or keep you on track when you are contemplating a U-turn. The days where something really HAPPENS. Usually something unexpected, and when you cast your thoughts back to the time before the something happened, you wonder how differently life may have unfolded...

For me, Margo Lanagan's 'Singing My Sister Down' played the lead role in one of those days. It's the first story in Margo's superb collection of short stories, Black Juice.

To characterise 'Singing My Sister Down' as a gem is an understatement of grand proportions. It's a story that lures you in and then quietly tears you apart. It stays with you, haunting you with its beauty, its fine balance, and its breathtaking tragedy.

I first read it in manuscript form just over seven years ago. I was between jobs and toying with the idea of veering away from editing and into sports journalism. And then I read 'Singing My Sister Down'.

Everything else evaporated. It was a dramatic moment. I sat on the sofa in my friend's lounge room, with my recently reconstructed knee supported by a pile of pillows, and held the manuscript pages to my chest, and wept.

I read it again, hands shaking, eyes blurred. 'Singing My Sister Down' made it impossible for me to veer anywhere. It took hold of me and swept me into the House of Onion.

If you haven't read it, do. It may not be the catalyst for a decision day for you, but you won't ever forget it. Truly.

Thank you, Margo. For the gift of 'Singing My Sister Down', and everything that followed.


Katherine Battersby said...

I know exactly what you mean about that story. Beautiful and heartbreaking, like much of Margo's work. Her stories tend to imprint on my mind and haunt my dreams. Oh, to be able to write like that!

Glad she lead you towards the house of onion :)

A latte beckons said...

I opened Black Juice in a bookshop and started reading "Singing My Sister Down." I couldn't let go of the book until I had read that first story all the way through to the end, pressing myself into a corner of the shop and hoping no one had noticed my paralysis. It was like being gripped by the back of the neck by a tiger.

I don't remember many places I've read short stories, but I remember that.

9fragments - ClareJStrahan said...

I'm very glad.