Irish Short Story Week Year II will begin March 12-please consider participating
Some Ideas and Resources for Irish Short Story Week
Not long ago I acquired a Kindle edition of New Irish Short Stories (2010), edited and with an introduction by Joseph O'Connor. The introduction is very interesting and I will talk a bit more on it later but it is the very diverse collection of authors that makes this book so great. I was glad to see that in addition to big name authors like William Trevor and Rodney Doyle it also includes a story I posted on a couple of months ago by Orfhlaith Foyle, "Somewhere in Minnesota". The collection also includes small biographies of each author, a practice I wish all editors of short story anthologies would adopt.
The lead story in the collection is "Beer Trip to LLandudno" by Kevin Barry from County Sligo. He has published a highly regarded collection of short stories about life in small town Ireland There Are Little Kingdoms and a novel City of Bohane. He has also published a in The New Yorker and elsewhere.
The public stereotype of Ireland is that it is a heavy drinking pub centered place with men having perhaps their closest bonds to their "beer buddies". In the effort to know the truth, I did a bit of research on world wide per capita consumption of beer. The top country is the Czech Republic, then Ireland, then Germany, France and Australia.
"Beer Trip to Llandudno" is all about beer drinking. It is about a group of men, drinking buddies. One of them says they look like they could all pose for the before picture in a poster of heart attack victims. Much of the story is devoted to their life long quest to find the absolute best beer of all which is for sure going to be an Irish blend. The have devised a one to ten system of rating beer that would shame the most particular of tea connoisseurs. It looks like they are in their late thirties or so. They do have wives and such and jobs but that is not the focus of their lives. They live in the pubs, elsewhere they exist or work to get money for the pubs. This is not a sad story even though it may seem that way. The men are living the best they can through very hard times. There are lots of great conversations in the story. I loved a scene where the girlfriend of one of the men from twenty years ago happens to come into the pub. His buddies comments on the attractive woman are really great and ring totally true.
"Beer Trip to Llandudno" gave me a real feel for the life of the men. They are all decent people trying to make their way in the world and finding what joy in it they can.
I plan now to post on another of Barry's short stories (it can be read online at The New Yorker) during Irish Short Stories Week Year Two which will run from March 12 to March 21 or so.
If you know of other short stories by Irish writers that are in the public area of the archives of The New Yorker, please leave a comment. If you have a favorite lesser known short story writer whose work can be read online please leave a comment.