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UQP presents a biting collection of stories from a bold new voice.
A young girl sees ghosts from her third eye, located where her belly button should be. A one-dimensional yellow man steps out of a cinema screen, hoping to lead a three-dimensional life. A journalist goes on assignment to report the latest food trend, which turns ice-cream eating into an extreme sport.
In Portable Curiosities, Julie Koh re-imagines our world with a dark, satirical twist. These twelve stories combine absurd humour with searing critiques on contemporary society – the rampant consumerism, the casual misogyny, the insidious fear of those who are different. Brilliantly clever and brimming with heart, this unforgettable collection is the work of a significant new talent.
Shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards – Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award 2016
Shortlisted for the UTS Glenda Adams Award in the 2017 NSW Premier's Literary Awards
Selected for The Best Australian Stories 2016: 'The Fat Girl in History'
Selected for Best Australian Comedy Writing 2016: 'Cream Reaper'
A Best Australian Book of 2016, The Guardian
A 2016 and 2017 Book of the Year, Australian Book Review
A Sydney Morning Herald Daily Life feminist reading pick of 2016
A Feminist Writers Festival Best Feminist Book of 2016
Armed with an uncanny ability to capture the zeitgeist of the time—whether it be contemporary society's obsession with foodie culture or institutionalised racism and misogyny—Australian writer Julie Koh's darkly satirical and convulsively funny short-story collection Portable Curiosities is as unsettling as it is edifying. SONIA NAIR | BOOKS + PUBLISHING
Portable Curiosities is cutting-edge writing in many ways. MAXINE BENEBA CLARKE | BEST BOOKS OF 2016, GUARDIAN AUSTRALIA
A slippery and subversive collection that made me laugh aloud as it sank a knife into contemporary Australia. PADDY O'REILLY | BEST BOOKS OF 2016, AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW
Julie Koh is a rare talent. Her stories are clever, surreal and darkly funny, mind puzzles that stay with you. Koh will alter the way you see the world. There is no-one quite like her. AMANDA LOHREY | 2012 PATRICK WHITE LITERARY AWARD WINNER
The Australian writer’s new work, Portable Curiosities, is a collection of whip-smart satirical tales that are as painfully funny as they are uncomfortably timely. ... It’s perfect for our busy, scary times: easily digestible and, for all its madcap imagination, utterly true. DOUG WALLEN | GUARDIAN AUSTRALIA
Julie Koh's first full-length short story collection, Portable Curiosities, is an electrifying satire on Anglo-Australian hegemony and the underbelly of the Australian Dream. ... Julie Koh's fiction is better than wild; it is a savagely brilliant exposé of society's vices. CASSANDRA ATHERTON | AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW
Koh is a gifted satirist ... Humour, weirdness, and social critique characterise almost all of the stories in this clever and highly original collection. KERRYN GOLDSWORTHY | THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
These twelve richly satirical narratives are absurdist, bleak, and blackly comic. Koh balances political commentary with portraits of society’s most perversely self-defeating behaviours that are often wickedly funny, and sometimes moving. … Koh is not pulling any punches, weaving elements of the mysterious and the grotesque with the all-too-real. Skirting the ‘bleeding edge’ – to borrow her tongue-in-cheek use of a particularly apposite bit of management-speak – not one of these stories allows her readers to sit comfortably. SOPHIA BARNES | SYDNEY REVIEW OF BOOKS
... a stellar addition to a new wave of Australian satire. ALAN VAARWERK | READINGS
I get the impression Koh is as delighted by the awfulness of late capitalism as she is horrified by it, and that gives me hope that our imminent dystopian future will at least not be humourless. JENNIFER MILLS | MEANJIN
Koh’s stories provide hilarious, lurid, touching and political views of Sydney, shot through with magic and near-futurism. Packed with ideas and arguments, Portable Curiosities is also wildly imaginative and laugh out loud funny. PATRICK MCINTYRE | SYDNEY THEATRE COMPANY
If you like pithy, strange, cutting and hilarious stories that skewer modern-day living, then this is the collection for you. LEANNE HALL | READINGS
... surreal, satirical stories... you genuinely don't know what's going to happen next... very funny. CHRIS WOMERSLEY | AUTHOR OF CAIRO, BEREFT & THE LOW ROAD | TRIPLE R BREAKFASTERS
This is some great writing. It’s intensely funny but it’s also pretty ferocious. DAMON YOUNG | AUTHOR OF THE ART OF READING | ABC RN BREAKFAST
Like Murakami with more edge, or Kurt Vonnegut but less sentimental, Julie Koh has assembled in Portable Curiosities a collection of potent, morbid short stories, each one hilarious and dark in equal measure. CAMERON COLWELL | GRAPESHOT
If Haruki Murakami and Angela Carter had a literary child, this might just be it. YEN-RONG WONG | PENCILLED IN
Strange, sharp, hilarious and sneakily political stories that somehow fit whole worlds into a few pages. Filled that George Saunders shaped hole in my life. RAJITH SAVANADASA | AUTHOR OF RUINS
Fuckin’ love those stories so much. BENJAMIN LAW
PRAISE FOR JULIE KOH
Razor-sharp and witty THE AUSTRALIAN
Gloriously ironic ARTSHUB
Read this story slowly to absorb the fine satire AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW
Julie Koh was born in Sydney to Chinese-Malaysian parents. She studied politics and law at the University of Sydney, then quit a career in corporate law to pursue writing. Her short stories have appeared in The Best Australian Stories 2014 and 2015, The Australian, The Sleepers Almanac, The Lifted Brow, Seizure, The Canary Press, Kyoto Journal, The Fish Anthology and Fixi Novo's HEAT. She has been a finalist in the Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards Written Word category, longlisted for the Australian Book Review's Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, shortlisted for the Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize for New and Emerging Writers, and commended for the Australian Society of Authors' Ray Koppe Young Writers' Residency. Short films based on her stories have screened at the St Kilda Film Festival, the Good Dog! International Film Festival and the Palm Springs International ShortFest. A capsule collection of her short stories, Capital Misfits, was published in 2015.
PRAISE FOR STORIES IN THIS COLLECTION
... 'Two' is an absurdist sprint through the regimented life of a man who decides that, if life is fleeting, he will beat it. AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW
Stories span the minutes of a small town meeting to eradicate a guerilla orchestra that has set up shop in the woods. The owner of a Sydney cat cafe declares he is seceding his shop from Australia. Whether on a conceptual level or a sentence level, there are multiple laugh-out-loud moments in every story in the collection. READINGS
Standout pieces include 'The Three Dimensional Yellow Man', which uses film characters leaping off-screen to highlight the systemic and pervasive racism in Australian culture, and 'The Fantastic Breasts', a hyperbolic ode to the titular body parts that is laugh-out-loud funny even as it pulses with rage, shifting into something darker as it approaches its brilliant final lines. READINGS
Julie Koh's The Fat Girl in History is a fun piece of auto-fiction that hits its stride when our narrator starts to expand defiantly beyond the boundaries of her human form. ARTSHUB
In the troubling Civility Place, corporate-lawyer-turned-writer Julie Koh tells the story of an anonymous worker in a 1200-level glass skyscraper as they slowly lose their grip on sanity... THE SPECTATOR
Folklaw wonders whether an “absurdist” tale about a lawyer who has a panic attack while working in a 1200-storey, glass-made office tower is really that removed from reality. … The (extremely funny) story ... canvasses issues of overriding concern to corporate lawyers… LAWYERS WEEKLY
... this story of a corporate lawyer externalises and makes literal the all-consuming nature of the modern workplace. The glass tower is all glass, walls and floors and “You’ve been told a middle-aged woman was once found wedged in one of the glass ceilings”. THE AGE | THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
Koh's 'Civility Place' is a welcome foray into the speculative/surreal: Richard Yates meets Philip K Dick, about the inescapability of commerce. ANGELA MEYER
[Koh's] brilliant mock celebrity interview, Cream Reaper, features an ice-cream genius who extends his range to homicidal lengths. THE AGE
2016 has been a very long year spent in a very unsatisfactory version of reality ... Who needs more reality, however wryly or laconically observed, when we can have ice cream so cool people take the 50% risk of death in eating it? THE CONVERSATION
A Mister Softee Cherry Dip Cone for Julie Koh's allegorical and darkly comedic short story collection Portable Curiosities (which includes a deadly delicious story entitled "Cream Reaper"). ICECREAMBOOKS.COM
FROM CREAM REAPER
I saw this Instagram post, right? And this girl wrote that she would, and I quote, kill for one of my ice-creams and I thought, as I slid down the left slippery slide, I wonder if she would literally die for one. That’s a gap in the market if I ever spied one. What if I decided to take ice-cream out of the ice-cream business and turn it into an extreme sport? What if an ice-cream existed that said to foodies everywhere: ‘How serious are you about food?’ An ice-cream that sorts the professionals from the amateurs, the men from the boys. So I thought I’d put the word out. Call in the media. We’re going to try it out today.
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