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Triangles

Our first short fiction title in the Literature Series,launched on 28 March 1999, was the short fiction collection Triangles by David P Reiter, with cover illustration by Cate Collopy.

A separated man finds a book of poems written by an old flame that tempts him back to a love that seemed too good to be true at the
time…

An opera singer returns from Europe to find his music teacher’s wife who taught him the meaning of true passion…

A teenage girl competing in an Eisteddfod at Port Arthur finds that the brutal historic site and her hostess have more than a few secrets
— and ghosts — in common…

Migrating north to Queensland, a man finds his lover immersed in more than a change of scene…

All hell breaks loose on a cul-de-sac when two otherwise married people admit to having it off — right under the nose of Neighbourhood Watch…

Triangles was first runner-up for the 2000 Steele Rudd Short Fiction Award, as announced 18 October 2000 at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. The AU$15,000 competition is the premier award for short fiction in Australia.

ISBN 9781876819187 (PB, 218pp);
140mm x 216mm

AUD $22 USD $18 NZD $24 GBP £12 EUR €14
ISBN 9781876819187 (eBook) AUD $11 USD $10 NZD $12 GBP £6 EUR €7

Reviews

Publishing webmeister, Brisbane-based refugee from North America and poetic PhD — his four books include a Queensland Premier’s Award-winner — David P. Reiter probes the algebraic complexity of relationships in his first short story collection, Triangles.

This narrative geometry is far from Euclidean, however, a satiric eye and deceptively understated style subverting expected QEDs. Always polished and generally spare, Reiter’s expositions of love and/or lust lost and/or found amuse and sometimes bemuse. Some linger longer in the mind than others, although his take is constantly fresh, his sensibility sophisticated. A similarity in story-to-story tone is but a minor flaw in what is an impressive assembly.

– Murray Waldren, The Australian

With everything from suburban sex trysts to encounters with bears in the wilds of the Canadian woods, Brisbane’s David Reiter gives his readers plenty of variety in his latest book, Triangles.

Well known on the local poetry and publishing scene, David is American born and a long time resident of Canada, before coming here. He runs the cutting-edge outfit Interactive Press, which publishes in book form and on the Internet

As a fan of Hemingway (a recent book of his poetry was entitled  Hemingway in Spain and Selected Poems) it’s no surprise that he’s keen on the short story, a form he’s well on the way to mastering. His stories vary in style and range from the poignant to the plain funny. The first story, ‘Still Life’, is a touching piece about poetry and lost love. In ‘Touching Bear’, the mood turns humorous as a young hiker is sent trail mapping in the forest on his university holidays by a lascivious park supervisor … "attractive enough to string along several men, so I doubted that she’d shed many tears over my remains when they were inadvertently discovered, weeks after I’d been dismembered, by a troop of boy scouts scrounging for arrowheads".

Other stories include a tale about ructions in a suburban Brisbane cul-de-sac when two otherwise married people admit to having sex – right under the nose of the local Neighbourhood Watch; a yarn about migrating to Queensland and a man more at home with his dogs than his family.

– Phil Brown, Brisbane News

What are the stories like? I surely found them easy to read, easy to continue to the next one. There is neat phrasing to enjoy: ‘Not a thread on her uniform was at ease’ ("The Female Factory"); ‘I learned from a very young age that God is off to the West, on top of mountains of implacable silence’ ("Touching Bear"); and ‘Is it our past or future we see overtaking us at the speed of light as the present cools like a dead star?’ ("As Good as a Fresh Lover").

And the best is saved for last. The title story tingles like a tango that has gone 24 bars too long, and ends on a satisfying, wry grin-inducing downbeat. The orchestra is left feeling happier than the dancers.

– Ross Clark, Social Alternatives

David P Reiter

David P Reiter is perhaps better known as the author of four books of poetry, the most recent of which,  Hemingway in Spain  and Selected Poems, was shortlisted for the prestigious John Bray Award at the 1998 Adelaide Festival for the Arts. But he has been writing fiction longer than poetry and has had individual stories published extensively in Australia and North America, as well as being commended in competitions.

In recognition of his talent as a story teller, he was invited to be a feature reader at the 1996 American Association of Australian Literary Studies in Arcata, California along with David Malouf, where he read fiction that appears in Triangles.

Never content within the restrictions of conventional form and technique, Reiter's stories test the limits, bringing in post-modernist and magical realistic elements to complement his love of satire. His influences include James Joyce, D H Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway (of course!), John Cheever, J D Salinger and John Updike, as well as Australian authors such as Morris Lurie, Peter Carey and Frank Moorhouse.


Sample


Touching Bear


I didn’t set out on purpose to meet the bear.

Some people do. I have known people who have touched bears on their first trip to the mountains. Scratched ears. Nuzzled the wet, black nose. To hear them tell it, the incident might have been as calculated as a snapshot with a fake floral backdrop. Almost all of them, especially the women, have learned to lower the pitch of their voices during the narrative to play on their audience.

We were really after blueberries. There was a crisp, fall morning, mist pirouetting over the lake in the breeze. After our second cup of coffee, we washed the breakfast dishes, crushed our tin cans and broke camp. My back still ached from that damned thin mattress. So I say to George, ‘If I can’t get a good night’s sleep at least I can eat blueberries.’

‘Take the lead,’ he says, almost like he knows what’s coming. ‘Your eyes are better for detail than mine.’

And like a fool I listen to him and stumble off down the trail.

I swear I’d practically stepped in the dung before I saw it. A pile of droppings, still damp and steamy, right there in the middle of the trail.

‘Tell me it’s from a deer or an elk, George,’ I say, holding my nose. ‘Lie to me, for a change.’

That’s when we hear a rustling in the thicket...

The bear is always as fierce as a Day of Judgement and has hot, sour breath. Aware of the script, it is all fangs and claws. Nearby, a cub shinnies up a dusty tree to cheer on big momma, its tongue and lips stained with blueberry flesh. Of course, the raging bear is never down on all fours because a grizzly can only hide its hump while rearing on its hind legs. Slight doubt works best in creme de menthe retrospectives.

‘How can you be sure if you’ve come face to face with a grizzly or just a black bear?’

‘Gee, I don’t know, Fred. How?’

‘Climb up a tree.

‘I don’t get it.’

‘Then listen up good. If the bear climbs up to pull you down, no sweat, it’s only a black. But if it grabs onto the base of the tree and shakes you out, you’ll know it’s a grizzly!’

Some people are so determined to meet a bear that they stash food inside their tent as bait. Along with a plethora of pan lids to use as cymbals in an alpine rendition of the 1812 Overture if a bear actually does wander by. One chap in the final phase of boredom with his mansion and Mercedes tied a food cache on a flimsy branch a few metres above his tent then retired inside to candlelight, champagne and a mistress with severe misgivings.

Did he expect the bear to skewer himself on the tent poles for his electronic flash?

I have never been one to toy with the Fates. A child of the Alberta foothills, I learned from a very young age that God is off to the West, on top of mountains of implacable silence. From time to time, the wilderness sends agents to penetrate our fences. The night before my twelfth birthday a bear apparently raided our neighbour’s fowl coop and gave his Irish Setter a good swat for interfering with destiny. Our neighbour, who was away at a weekend cattle auction in Calgary, returned the next morning to find the setter in amazingly good repair, considering its crushed skull and the fact that it wasn’t breathing.

‘Oh, well,’ he told my father, putting on a brave front in my presence. ‘All the durned thing could do was yowl anyway. Just wish the bear had eaten him instead of my leghorns!’

A valuable omen. In the mountains thereafter I shied away from any sign of bear. At first, I mixed mythologies, sometimes imagining myself a Sheriff of Nottingham nervously awaiting ambush by a dandy in tights and a feathered cap. Older, I began to think that the inevitable encounter had been delayed to nip my potential more tragically at the first flower of promise, which may have had something to do with the fact that I’d remained virginal after most of my friends had made it with the most handy female approximation of their fantasies. On a trail, I’d keep up a steady chatter with my companions, especially when the path ahead was banked with dense scrub. When I caught fish, I always washed all traces of blood off my knife then buried the guts, head, tail and bones well out of sight from camp. I read Faulkner’s The Bear intently by firelight.

I never doubted that my addiction to the mountains would eventually bring me face to face with a bear. But I was in no hurry.


It happened in the line of duty. As a university student, when the job of mapping out recreational trails for the summer came my way, I jumped at the chance. To think that someone would actually pay me for hiking around! The only problem was that I had to do it on my own. Through bear country.

My supervisor was sympathetic, in her own way. ‘I’d love to go with you and hold your hand under the elms,’ she said, batting eyebrows. ‘But our budget simply won’t allow it.’

She was only a few years older than me but had already graduated, so I missed the allusion. ‘There aren’t any elms in Waterton Park,’ I replied.

‘Maybe not,’ she laughed. ‘If you should make it back with all your limbs intact, I’ll pack a picnic and find us one!’

She was attractive enough to string along several men, so I doubted that she’d shed many tears over my remains when they were inadvertently discovered, weeks after I’d been dismembered, by a troop of boy scouts scrounging for arrowheads. I didn’t bother to ask for a skein of medieval silk: I was truly alone.

Things went well enough until I came to the Borderline Track, a meandering path that led to the boundary with the United States and then continued into Glacier Park, even more infamous for its testy bears. Just last month, a West German accountant in lederhosen had been kabobed by a grizzly while sipping Liebfraumilch on the banks of an innocuous creek. The report failed to speculate as to whether the bear was keen on lebensraum.

The sign at the trail head was quite explicit:


WARNING

GRIZZLY BEARS HAVE BEEN SIGHTED

ON THIS TRAIL IN THE PAST WEEK

CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE