Common People by Tony Birch (UQP)
The ‘common people’ who thrum through Tony Birch’s short story collection are common in one sense: they form part of society’s unnoticed. They are ordinary people — some are poor, some abandoned, some unwell, some disconnected, some refugees in the broad sense of the word. Whether they are two single mothers bludgeoning in an ad hoc abattoir, a man digging holes to bury demolished houses or a boy locked out of his flat, Birch brings them together through his sharp, empathetic take on their life and lot.
They may be common, but in Birch's hands these people are uncommon too, and each one precious. Birch blends humour and social critique in stories that are so tight, so devoid of optional extras, that they feel as real as can be, for both the people in them and the places they live. With this book, a meditation on those short-changed by the Australian Dream, he lays claim to being one of our greatest short fiction writers.