The title of the new edition of the Sydney University Student Anthology caught me by surprise: Sandstone. It conjures images of tradition, history and the establishment, the associations that the University of Sydney is trying to move away from in its quest to be less elitist and more contemporary. Less than a year ago, the University carried out a controversial change of its shield dropping the Latin phrase and curly edges in favour of the slicker and web-friendly logo. Yet, in this digital era of e-books and e-learning, the 2010 collection of new writing from students of the University is called Sandstone.
As a student I was closely involved in one of the prior editions of the anthology, The cellar door. I know how difficult it is for a committee (typically over 20 members) to come up with a title for a thematically diverse collection of stories and poems. And naming is such a vital part of publishing; all else hinges on the title: the cover design, the typography and the marketing story.
As expected, the Sandstone cover is fittingly adorned with sandstone lions, old-fashioned typography redolent of castles and medieval times. But among the treasure of amazing stories and poems in the collection, not one talks about knights, lions, the tradition or even the Quadrangle. Instead, there are stories of childhood, friendship and migration, odes to grammar, environmentalism and the CityRail and an essay on e-books.
There is something adventurous and breathtaking about the lack of overarching theme in this and the previous anthologies. It is the quality of the writing that takes precedence over the subject matter, style over content. The reader is taken for a ride, full of surprises and breathtaking turns, and left to lose oneself - the prerogative of a good book.
Sandstone will be launched on 3 November 2010 at Sydney Uni Co-op Bookshop by David Brooks, author, poet, co-editor of Southerly and an associate professor of Australian literature at the University of Sydney.