Letter to George Clooney

By Debra Adelaide Picador

Debra Adelaide’s collection of short stories intricately maps both the sublime and the mundane landscape of ordinary lives, with her trademark dark wit and luminous intelligence.

In Glory in the Flower, distinguished but disillusioned British poet, Bill, crosses the world on the promise of a prestigious literary festival only to find himself roughing it with an unlikely group of amateur poets, with surprising results.

One man’s attempt to negotiate the Australian taxation system reads like a noir thriller in The Pirate Map, and the minefield of internet dating in Chance artfully balances the absurd and dark side of the human psyche.

Harder Than Your Husband follows a serious-minded administrator as he attempts to navigate the induction of a new, and rather perplexing, employee.

And the final eclipsing story, Letter to George Clooney, opens a door into a world of terror and deprivation: searing in its devastating restraint, it demonstrates why Adelaide is one of the finest Australian writers of her generation.

Debra Adelaide

Debra Adelaide is the author or editor of over twelve books, including The Hotel AlbatrossSerpent Dust and the best-selling The Household Guide to Dying. In 2013 she published her first collection of short stories, Letter to George Clooney, which was longlisted for the 2014 Stella Prize. Her most recent novel, The Women’s Pages, was longlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize. She is an associate professor in creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Judges' report

This is novelist Debra Adelaide’s first collection of short stories, and while readers will recognise her dry wit, quirky imagination and fundamental seriousness of purpose, it’s also clear that she has mastered the requirements of the short-story form. Adelaide’s sheer range is impressive, and there is no slick or same-y surface even to the most light-hearted of these stories. In ‘The Glory in the Flower’, an eminent English poet finds himself teaching a writing workshop in an Australian shed in the middle of nowhere and it gradually dawns on the reader that this is no ordinary poet. ‘The Form of Solemnisation of Matrimony’ is, apparently against all the odds, an optimistic love story. The grave and troubling title story, with its perfect pitch and its shocking denouement, is a story that should be required reading in all Australian schools and armchairs. And across this wide range, Adelaide brings to her work a thoughtful craftsmanship that skilfully matches voice and tone to subject matter.

Some of these stories address the writing life and inevitably those are the funniest and most ironic, relentlessly showing up some of the absurdities of a writer’s daily existence while titanic literary figures like Wordsworth and Emily Brontë dance across the pages. Other stories seem quirky and almost surreal but have a strong underlying social message, such as the off-beat and disquieting ‘Virgin Bones’. Here as in her previous books, Adelaide uses her fine technical skills in the service of powerful and committed social analysis, and focuses on the interconnectedness of public and private life.