AUTOMATIC TELLER book cover   Automatic Teller
Carmel Bird

Dustjacket synopsis:
"What is the process that takes a thought from a writer's head, onto the page, and into the mind of a reader?.

"The white flash of her skin was luminous against the grey-green shadows of the trees. Two shots and he had her and she fell.

"Automatic Teller is a meditation on the heart, mind and imagination at work. In this provocative collection of stories and essays, Carmel Bird examines the nature of fact and fiction and the complexities of contemporary life in writing that encompasses dark humour, sly wit, and abiding compassion.

"A rescue worker in brown and yellow protective clothing, wearing a red helmet stamped with a yellow '5', cradles in his arms the body of a baby, its head smudged with blood, its limbs dangling limp...

"Each of the twenty-four pieces is prefaced with a personal reflection on the art of storytelling. The result is both a revealing writer's diary, and a feast of insightful - and surprising - storytelling.

"'Take off all your clothes,' the psychiatrist said, 'and lie down on the couch.'"

"Carmel Bird writes fiction every bit as spectacular as Angela Carter's ...". - Michael Sharkey, The Australian
"Carmel Bird uses structure and syntax the way a witch uses spells." - Jessica Adams, Cleo

"Barbara Hanrahan"
"A Telephone Call for Genevieve Snow"
"Mr Lightning"
"One Last Picture of Ruby-Rose"
"The Golden Moment (1995)"
"The Piano"
"What Writers Do"
"Chinese Carpets"
"My Mother's Death"
"Fact of Fiction-Who Knows, Who Cares"
"Reflections in My Father's Mirrors"
"As High as an Elephant's Eye"
"Reptile Girl"
"The Man in the Red Car"
"The Affair at the Ritz"
"Ties of Blood"
"Now lda Haunts the Car Park"
"Her First Golden Moment (1989)"
"The Horse Might Talk"
"Why Breezy McCarthy Drank the Cider"
"Major Butier's Kidneys"

First Paragraph from the Introduction:

If on the stroke of midnight you stand outside the bank in the High Street and feed some cash to the hole in the wall, then press your ear to the automatic teller, you will hear a story. The teller knows all the stories of all the people hereabouts, and many other stories besides. Forget the fact that midnight cannot be said to strike in these parts, these days or nights. And the bells in the convent have been silent since the nuns left and the Soil Conservation people moved in. (Church bells were melted down in Russia to be used for making guns.) The clock on the Town Hall is a huge digital affair, the old Swiss mechanism and face having been sold to a museum somewhere in Texas. So when I write and you read 'stroke of midnight' you take it as a figure, of speech with a grain of salt, and you press your ear to the automatic teller and you get a story.

This book Automatic Teller is a collection of short pieces of prose, many of which have been published before. They have been fashioned from my observations, my imagination and my heart, and I see the stories and essays as something like the parts of a whole body. To build this body for people who read the book, I have interleaved the parts with connective tissue. I am writing this section of the book on a sunny autumn day in Melbourne. Beside me on the table is a white jug of irises; the perfume of some ginger lilies fills the air; Glenn Gould is playing The Moonlight Sonata. I am writing with the same fountain pen. I have used for thirty years; the ink is blue and I'm writing in a large notebook with a black and scarlet cover. I'm curled up on a heap of cushions on the sofa beside the table, and on the table, beside the irises, is a red plastic basket containing copies of all the stories in Automatic Teller.

From the Viking paperback edition, 1996.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2002 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: January 29, 2002.