A review of the Driftwood Press 2023 Anthology edited by James McNulty & Jerrod Schwarz

Reviewed by Paul Traynor

Driftwood Press 2023 Anthology
Edited by James McNulty & Jerrod Schwarz
Driftwood Press
March 2023, 308 pages, ISBN: 978-1-949065-23-7,

When I read anthologies, even if there is no theme to the requested submissions, I like to find some cohesiveness to the collection. With the Driftwood Press 2023 Anthology, despite the broad variation in storytelling, the inclusion of interviews with the contributors following each piece felt like that unifier. It made the publication feel like part anthology and part study of the creative process.

The study of process aspect was, at times, quite fascinating and provided greater context to some pieces that either confirmed or clarified my thoughts, or helped me understand more about pieces I didn’t quite grasp the meaning or intention of. In the case of pieces such as Bark On and the poems of Margaret Yapps the fact that they were extracts of larger works explained to me why I felt they were incomplete. Though in the case of Way Back Home 2 and 3 I appreciated them stand alone.

When I didn’t quite like an approach in a piece, such as the slow reveal in Modor, it was really interesting to read the intention of the writer. The slow start in this case was confirmed as intentional, however while I really liked the perspective of the story and it’s consideration of older tales in a colonial and ‘one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’ light, without the context of what the tale was from the outset I almost dismissed the tale as  hyper-violent without purpose.

Despite appreciating this insight from the creators I regularly had to remind myself to stop viewing the pieces purely with a studious eye and read them for enjoyment. To take in the anthology as an anthology and not as a text book.

The array of story telling styles was appreciatively broad. From the short thumping impact of Twin Sisters with its brief track to a powerful and thought-provoking ending and the treatment of the surreal in Neon Fish (though I found digressions such as the nautical themed bathroom derailed the flow) to the reframing of a classic story in Modor.

Artful word choice was on ready display. Tank’s evocative language and exploration of trauma and the word smithing in Scotched Earth Tapestry were fantastic and then the more direct language of Reburial was by a favourite for its beautiful investigation of grief, stoicism, and the distance within family, the direct language highlighting the stoicism.

The graphical contributions toward the end of the anthology worked strongest when the style communicated as much as the images themselves. The striking Soviet-inspired style of Piano Trip and the comfort of the wrinkled friends on the beach in Dados gave great insight into more than what was immediate.

As an overall anthology, I found the weighty first section of collected short stories heavy going after a while. Personally I find a mixture of forms through the course of an anthology far more engaging, rather than grouping formats together. Regardless, the array of styles on offer and the insight into the creators was fascinating.

About the reviewer: Paul Traynor is a writer and musician based in western Sydney, a member of the 2022 WestWords Academy and recipient of a 2022 Sydney Review of Books/WestWords Digital Residency, with work published through the Sydney Review of Books and in collections from Hawkeye Books, WestWords Living Stories, and ZineWest. Paul is also occasionally known, mainly musically, as klangmoss.