Australian writer Murray Bail is mainly noted as a novelist, but heâs also produced a small body of short fiction thatâs at last available in the U.S. Camouflage assembles fourteen stories (eleven more than the UK edition with the same title, be warned), comprising a tidy overview of his career. Itâs hard to tell which of the pieces are of recent vintage, first because the publisher provides no provenances, but more importantly because theyâre all equally fresh and equally timeless. Whatever setting Bail depicts, whether it be a suburban backyard, a competitive office, or a reverent museum, he subtly defamiliarizes it, always making it seem new and often rendering it positively uncanny. His style is flexible enough to paint perfect verbal portraits and to experiment with formal boundaries, sometimes in the same paragraph. His prose is economical, almost terse at times, suggestive far beyond what it makes explicit. While thereâs no mistaking Bailâs voice, several other authors sprang to mind as I read these storiesâPenelope Fitzgerald for her compression of ideas, Steven Millhauser for his dreaminess, Robert Coover for his innovationâand what they all have in common is their confident mastery. Like them, Bail is an assured writer in perfect command, able to achieve any effect he might wish. He can be sedate or shocking by turns, and is frequently funny in either mode, but the most prevalent tone in this volume is one of detached melancholy, as when he writes, âShe sat at my kitchen table one afternoon and wept uncontrollably. How can words, particularly âwept uncontrollably,â convey her sadness (her self-pity)? Philosophers other than myself have discussed the inadequacy of words.â? Whatever truth there may be in the discussions of those philosophers, thereâs no inadequacy in Camouflage.