Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests





Friday, May 11, 2012

"Hawk" by John Walsh

"Hawk" by John Walsh (2012, 9 pages, from Border Lines)



The Irish Quarter:  A Celebration  of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to July 1


John Walsh


Please consider participating in the Irish Quarter.   Everything you need to do so is in the resources page, including links to 1000s of stories, old and new.   All you need do to join us is to post on anything related to an Irish short story and let me know about it in a comment or email.  Guests posts are very welcome.  


Resources and Ideas 

I am at a disadvantage in reading many Irish short stories as I have no detailed knowledge of Irish history, slang expressions, or the commonality of culture that comes from a shared upbringing and even cultural references to TV shows are beyond my immediate grasp.   To give a specific example, in reading "Hawk", a brilliant story from a much anticipated debut short story collection by the distinguished poet John Walsh, I did not realize this story was about the time of troubles in Derry, Ireland until I did some post read research. I think the fact that you do not need to know this is to feel the power in "Hawk" is a tribute to the wonderful craftsmanship of Walsh.   To elaborate a bit, in The Lonely Voice:  A Study of the Short Story Frank O'Connor recalls some advice he got from William Butler Yeats that he said he often passed on to the students in his creative writing classes.  If you have an idea for a contemporary  story, first set it in ancient Byzantium, then Italy in the 1500s and if it still makes sense, go ahead and write it.   Not long ago there was a novel written by an author from the Philippines.   It won a prepublication award for best forthcoming novel by an Asian author.  The local press and many local book bloggers were praising it as a great book but if you read their posts all they could find to say about the book (I suspect many did not read it) was that it was fun to see all the local references.  I tried hard to find something good to say about the book but I could not so I never posted on it.   John Walsh's story would work perfectly well set anywhere.  It achieves one of  the short story teller's highest  achievement of showing the universal in the particular and the even more difficult converse of this.

As "Hawk" opens, it is told in the third person, Gemma is pulling into the school parking lot where she works, in her blue Fiesta.  She was too stressed over the forth coming ministerial visit to the school to eat breakfast and has barely slept for three nights.  A very important man from the Department of Education was coming to inspect St Edna's School to see if it was up to standards.   It is a Catholic school and everybody is very nervous over the upcoming visit.  A bad mark would be humiliating and will for sure infuriate the very strict and fearsome sister that runs the school.   


A reception committee has been set up, carefully selected for their cordiality.  One of the male teachers, Aidan, had played football with the Minister's brother and he was assigned to talk to him.    The day had started extra early as it takes three hours to heat the school.  Gemma tries to avoid Aidan as she knows he will go over the plans for the visit the  100th seeming time.


Gemma has her own plan for the visit.   A plan that once started could not be reversed.  The big day is here.  Everyone is dressed to the max.  The first stop for the Minister is to be in the computer room, where Gemma works.  I think the idea is to dazzle the Minister with the high tech display of brilliance.  The school has a new program called HAWK, standing for "historical archives".  It is designed to let the students learn history by themselves.   Everybody at the school is very proud of this and hopes it will become a pilot project adopted by the Department of Education.   A student can just type in a term, like say "Oliver Cromwell" and lots of data displayed in a student friendly fashion will come up.   There are twenty terminals in the computer room with the program installed.   When you open the program a large silver hawk flies across the screen.  


"And here we are, Minister, in our state-of-the-art computer room".   Sister Agnes' voice was purposely loud.   Everyone made motions to rise.  "Don't let me disturb you", the Minister told them.  "Please go on with whatever you're doing.  I won't be in your way for long."   He was less impressive than he looked on television.  Smaller build.  His voice was thin, not forceful.
Gemma tells the Minister all about HAWK and he seems very impressed, it does sound interesting.   I am going to stop telling the plot now as you need to read this for yourself without knowing what comes next.  


"Hawk" is a wonderful story, I loved it.  I know fate is going to come crashing down on Gemma but it is OK, she had her revenge.  


"Hawk" is a first rate short story.   In just a few pages Walsh develops several characters and got me very interested in the story.   


I look forward to reading the rest of the stories in Border Lands. 


Here is the link to the publisher Doire Press.  Their web page lists a number of interesting sounding works and is a good source of information about the Irish literary scene.  


Mel U


Jo

Author Biography


John Walsh was born in Derry in 1950. After sixteen years teaching English in Germany, in 1989 he returned to live in Connemara. His first collection Johnny tell Them was published by Guildhall Press (Derry) in October 2006. In 2007 he received a Publication Award from Galway County Council to publish his second collection Love's Enterprise Zone (Doire Press, Connemara). His poems have been published in Ireland, the UK and Austria and he has read and performed his poems at events in Ireland, the UK, Germany and Sweden. He is organizer and MC of the successful performance poetry event North Beach Poetry Nights in the Crane Bar, Galway. He has also been known to show up with his guitar and deliver one or two of his own songs. Chopping Wood with T.S. Eliot is a collection of sixty new poems to celebrate his reaching the mature age of sixty.


I
Hr sixteen years, he now lives and writes in Connemara. He has published three collections of poetry, Johnny tell Them (Guildhall Press, 2006),Love’s Enterprise Zone (Doire Press, 2007) andChopping Wood with T.S. Eliot (Salmon Poetry, 2010). He is organiser of North Beach Poetry Nights in Galway, Ireland’s leading performance poetry event, and is co-director of Doire Press, a small literary press in the west of Ireland publishing poetry and literary fiction. Border Lines, John’s debut collection of short stories, is forthcoming in 2012.


 After living in Germany for sixteen years, he now lives and writes in Connemara. He has published three collections of poetry, Johnny tell Them (Guildhall Press, 2006),Love’s Enterprise Zone (Doire Press, 2007) andChopping Wood with T.S. Eliot (Salmon Poetry, 2010). He is organiser of North Beach Poetry Nights in Galway, Ireland’s leading performance poetry event, and is co-director of Doire Press, a small literary press in the west of Ireland publishing poetry and literary fiction. Border Lines, John’s debut collection of short stories, is forthcoming in 2012.













1 comment:

Parrish Lantern said...

Another great find & am curious about the "Asian Author" although based on what is said I've my suspicions on who it is.