Back in 1969, American short story writer and novelist John Cheever complained of the underdog status of short stories, calling the short story ‘something of a bum‘. I bought Six Bedrooms after being exhorted by Charlotte Wood (winner of 2016 Stella Prize) to support the Australian book industry by buying more books; it turns out I am easily persuaded on such matters. Otherwise, I probably would’ve passed over this collection. Like a lot of folk, I don’t tend to gravitate to short story collections, and my last exploration into this territory with Hot Little Hands left me feeling a little meh. However, Tegan Bennet Daylight’s skill with this form has me recalibrating my position.
It’s hard to know what to write about Hot Little Hands. The blurb on the back of the book promises that it ‘contains nine funny, confronting and pitch-perfect stories about stumbling on the fringes of innocence’. Yes, there are nine stories; and yes, they are confronting; but no, they are not funny. Definitely, not funny.