Cracking The Spine


Ten short Australian stories and how they were written

Edited by Julie Chevalier and Bronwyn Mehan

‘Cracking the Spine is a deftly curated overview of the contemporary Australian short story, including pieces by ten of the best practitioners at work today.’ GEORDIE WILLIAMSON  Booktopia |Kobo |Amazon



Featuring stories and essays by Ryan O’Neill, Maria Takolander, Andy Kissane, Marion Halligon, Michael Giacometti, Jennifer Mills, Rjurik Davidson, Claire Aman, Patrick West and Anthony Birch.

Praise for Cracking The Spine:

‘Only rarely does a reviewer come across a perfect collection.’ Helen Elliot, The Australian

‘Cracking The Spine is the most innovative resource in Australian literature I have seen in many years. An anthology of contemporary short stories, each with a commentary by their authors, the collection breaks down the wall between the creative and discursive, the imagistic and the expository. Filled with cutting-edge, innovative writers and armed with an expansive definition of what it is to be an Australian, Cracking the Spine will be at once accessible to undergraduate students and informative and challenging for their teachers. What a thrill to see a work like this come about!’ NICHOLAS BIRNS, EDITOR, ANTIPODES

‘The auto-critical essays that accompany each work gesture even more widely. Literature, life, landscape, history: the whole gamut of Antipodean experience may be gleaned from its pages. An ideal resource for those interested in Ozlit, Cracking the Spine is also a pure pleasure to read.’ GEORDIE WILLIAMSON

‘How does fiction come to be written? Alongside ten cracking stories, writers generously respond with personal, diverse, engrossing insights.’ CARMEL BIRD, DEAR WRITER REVISITED

‘A great resource for the classroom, and a great read for anyone who cares about how short stories work.’ KIRSTEN TRANTER,  UC BERKELEY

‘The opening story in Cracking The Spine, ‘An Australian Story’, provides a delightful long view of the contextual and historical landscape that forms this collection of ten contemporary short stories, each paired with an essay by the author. Ryan O’Neill’s account of constructing a short fictional narrative from single lines of other short Australian stories published between 1850 and 2011 is both a meditation on, and an experiment in what might constitute the boundaries of the form today.

The alternating story/essay combination of Cracking The Spine lends itself particularly well to the introduction of practice-based research concepts in undergraduate courses; while some essays touch on areas of literary criticism, the main focus is the authors’ exegetical approach to their own work, and how life experience and daily writing practice shape craft decisions.

I am currently convening a large first year course on the short story at the University of New South Wales, and though we have used resources in which writers discuss their writing practice, there are few volumes available that combine a close focus on authorial insight into individual works and a survey of the Australian contemporary short story. Cracking The Spine will go a long way towards filling this gap.’ JOSHUA MEI-LING DUBRAU, UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

Cover design by Bettina Kaiser.

Trade inquiries:

Distributed by NewSouth Books through Alliance Distribution Services (ADS)
Tel: +61 (2) 4390 1300


Additional information


Print; ebook







Publication Date:

May 2014


W133mm H203 mm