Contributor Blanche d'Alpuget.

Contributor Blanche d'Alpuget. Photo: Lyn Mills

ANTHOLOGY
Edited by Irma Gold
Halstead Press, $28.95

Many people who aren't from Canberra are likely to share fond memories of visiting our national capital. While we're acutely aware of Canberra's political legacy, what perhaps doesn't spring immediately to mind is a strong literary heritage - something The Invisible Thread is likely to change.

Published to mark Canberra's approaching centenary, this anthology combs through the past 100 years of Australian writing to find a link between its 75 contributors - all at some point have firmly planted their feet, or at least stretched their legs, on Canberra soil.

Connecting writers like this is always intriguing, asking how a sense of place affects our broader interpretation of the world, particularly Canberra, described by Robyn Archer in her foreword to the text as having a "hidden" nature (perhaps adding to the popular myth that "nothing" happens there).

"Like so many things about Canberra," Archer writes, "just because you don't see it doesn't mean it isn't there."

The time to look a little deeper couldn't be better, allowing us to re-imagine Canberra's symbolic role in our national psyche - a good start being with its human, artistic side.

Though driven by the writers' personal connection with the region, editor Irma Gold's main aim wasn't to catalogue or represent Canberra as any one thing (staying true to its reputation, our capital city remains largely in the shadows). Rather, it was about finding writing that "sings", and which sings together.

So we find selections from some of Australia's best-known writers and poets (their Canberra connections explained in accompanying notes): Miles Franklin, Kate Grenville, Blanche d'Alpuget, Les Murray and even children's authors such as Garth Nix and Jackie French.

Despite the power names offered, no single writer dominates and each is given space to shine, though readers will discover their own favourites here (the standouts for me being relatively recent pieces by Lesley Lebkowicz, Sarah St Vincent Welch and Kaaron Warren). Alongside essays on social and political issues, the collection offers many reflections on war (unsurprising, given Canberra's housing of the Australian War Memorial).

Extracts from Ken Inglis, Manning Clark, C.E.W. Bean and Peter Stanley, which "talk" to one another while revealing the sometimes forgotten role of historians as storytellers, prove a highlight. Though by design piecemeal and incomplete, the anthology champions readers to pick up the threads and run with them; threads now visible, and perhaps as long as the proverbial piece of string.