Graeme Simson’s collection exudes whimsy

Is there a reader who doesn’t like Don Tillman? The Don Tillman I am referring to is Graeme Simsion’s character from his first novel, Project Rosie. That zany comedy was a huge success and Simsion wrote a second and then a third story about Don and Rosie.

The first of Rosie the series made Simsion famous. Don and Rosie are such lovable characters that every reader wanted to follow their lives. There was no doubting the exhilaration of reading that first novel. The jokes were visual and hilarious, and in some mysterious way the author’s intelligence lit up every page.

Graeme Simsion is unfailingly funny.

Graeme Simsion is unfailingly funny.Credit:Scott McNaughton

And every reader wondered if the lovably angry Don might be autobiographical. This new book may help with queries. Creative differences and other stories is an unusual collection of nine works written during Simsion’s industrious career. Some are fiction, some written for newspapers, some commissioned, some as prize works.

And a little more than half of the book is a short novel, Creative differences. It deals with two contrasting ways of writing a novel: a detailed plot or flying by the seat of your pants. Scott has the mind of a steel trap that solves problems and makes jokes, Emily has access to muses. They have been happily together for three years, creatively and in life, but trouble comes with the arrival of Piper, who wants to use both to release her own genius from the cage. There is also Gideon, a bankrupt publisher. A short man with a big brain.

Creative Differences and Other Stories by Graeme Simsion.

Creative Differences and Other Stories by Graeme Simsion.

Creative differences was commissioned by Audible Australia, and that required a bit of research for Simsion. Obviously spoken voices would do, but he had to look for inspiration.

It was the Beatles’ The white album it became the reference point for Simsion: 30 songs, four voices and the creative differences that famously separate the bands, he writes in his introduction. I’m afraid all this has passed me by.

An idle thought crossed my mind: Is Simsion’s cleverness exaggerated? Another equally idle one follows: when does a smartass turn into a smartass? Simsion’s qualities worked in a gentle handling, emotionally thin Rosie novel, resulting in exciting entertainment, but I want to say “hmm?” here. For my money this would work better as a sonic.

The nine pieces that make up the first half of the book are interesting. Confession in three parts, a story within a story about two generations of female doctors, is a direct descendant of O. Henry, shocking and satisfying. More, Three encounters with the physicalwas runner-up in Age Short story competition 2013. A man goes on his first marathon. He is 51 years old. He is obsessive, even when his body is telling him to stop or he will die. He won’t.

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