New Zealand writer and academic, Tracey Slaughter, has produced a book of seventeen well-crafted short stories. deleted scenes for lovers comprises a selection of award-winning pieces from regional, national and international anthologies, competitions and magazines such as takahē, Landfall and Orange Roughy and the Bridport Short Story Prize. She’s clearly skilled at writing, and as a lecturer at the University of Waikato, she’s an expert on creative writing. You can learn a great deal from her use of language, how she sets up a scene, and the significance of the underlying themes pertaining to the real world.
Infidelity is explored openly in ‘deleted scenes for lovers’ and ‘go home, stay home’. In ‘the names in the garden’, a woman ponders God and life after being told by a congregation not to arrange the church flowers anymore. I particularly enjoyed the sweet and comic portrayal of ordinary family life in ‘scenes of a long-term nature’, where a love story is told in future tense, where married life is envisaged in colourful still frames, out of sequence. This short story may be nostalgic for some and revelatory for others. On a more serious note, ‘how to leave your family’ portrays motherhood as a clash between adulterous thoughts and children. Nevertheless, the story shows that children make married life more interesting, if not sunnier.
Slaughter writes with great detail, unveiling the “behind the scenes” of contemporary New Zealand life. The short stories encompass the world of the small-town, presenting our Land in honest lower-case titling and raw characterisation. Slaughter’s couples, young women, wives and children all deal with working-class life and its concomitant troubles. Within the pages lurks dark danger, intoxication, death, rape and lonely, lightless rooms. And in these scenes you feel the presence of broken vows and secrets threaded through unhappy living. But there is also communication, optimistic thought and anticipation, even if these come in the forms of quiet sunsets and washing lines.
Slaughter’s short stories are vivid, truthful, and incisive. They’re a feast for the senses. As the reader you are invited to survey each situation and form a conclusion based on the images you see. Her syntax is a sword; her choice of words a magic wand. In sum, Slaughter has rejuvenated the short story with poetic finesse.
Reviewed by Azariah Alfante.
deleted scenes for lovers
by Tracey Slaughter
Published by Victoria University Press