Murray Bail is one of Australia’s most respected and highly accomplished contemporary novelists. In Camouflage, Bail collects fourteen of his stories--all of which have been published previously in two, smaller editions--and demonstrates his talents as a writer of short fiction.
This collection bears all of the marks of Bail’s work in the novel. He is a writer of sharp wit who looks at the contemporary scene through glasses that are somewhat less than rose-colored. In stories like “The Seduction of My Sister” and “Life of the Party,” Bail takes a sharply off-angle glance at Australian suburbia; characters hurl household items over a fence in an elaborate, bizarre game, or watch from treehouses as guests arrive and mingle at a party given by an absent host. There is, indeed, a certain voyeuristic quality to many of Bail’s stories.
Bail is also known as an experimenter with style. He is fond of the self-conscious fiction, of the story which draws attention to itself as story. His narrators announce to readers that they are writing stories; his stories emerge as constructions, as patent fabrications of narrative and language, as in “Cul-de-Sac.” This has much to do with Bail’s perception of life as we know it these days, with the ways in which we construct--ever so awkwardly, at times--our personal worlds.
But Bail is also a writer aware of tradition, and of the Australian tradition. His best-known story,...
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