M 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

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

July 1 Update on The Irish Quarter Some Reflections on the Future of My Blog


The Irish Quarter
A Celebration of the Irish Short Story



Future Plans for The Reading Life




Bottom Line, The Irish Quarter is not going away.  

"If it were not for me, The Reading Life
would be closed for lack of interest"-Carmilla
The Irish Quarter was scheduled to end on July One.   I really do not wish to close the event but I also want at some time to end it as an event with a beginning and close just so I can restart it no later than March 1, 2013 as The Irish Quarter Year Three.  The dated portion of the Irish Quarter will run a bit longer but it will end.   I will permanently be open to guest posts related to the Irish short story

  There will from now on be a part, a very big part, of The Reading Life called, "The Irish Quarter".   As long as I maintain my blog, there will be an Irish Quarter where short stories by Irish writers, from those of the 18th century to those published yesterday, have a place of honor. 

 More and more when I ask myself would I rather read an 800 page novel or 80 ten page short stories the answer is I would rather read the short stories.  For sure it would be a much more intense experience.   The short story is coming to seem more and more of a primal art form to me.   




"Oh Carmilla, why so negative"
Ruprecht
When I began my event, then called Irish Short Story Week, I planned for ten days, just like I did in 2011.   Now it has expanded to well over 120 days.    It has turned out to be one of the great reading experiences of my life.   I have had a number of mini-events during what I now called The Irish Quarter.  Emerging Irish Women writers was supposed to be from March 23 to March 29.    I have really been overwhelmed with the quality of the stories.  I hope someone will be doing something like this event in 2032 and my guess is several of the writers included in the event will be considered among the great writers of the world.  I know this sounds hyperbolic but if you take the trouble to read the stories I have posted on, with the exception of one story all can be read online, I think you will agree.   


Emerging Irish writers will now be a permanent feature of The Reading Life.  Anyone interested in being featured please feel free to contact me.


"Carmilla, maybe I can cheer
you up"-Rory
The Irish Quarter has also taken The Reading Life into an exciting  new area, the publishing of short works of fiction.  So far I have published eight stories by Irish writers and I have several more in queue.  If you are interested in this, please contact me.  You do not have to be Irish to be published.   I will consider original stories and republishing stories.  For those interested I am willing to provide my readership statistics to demonstrate this is a win /win idea.


I have posted on a number of collections of short stories by Irish writers and I will be posting on all these additional works, hopefully, pretty soon.   I am quite open to adding to this list and in fact I do have a number of collections of short stories by authors of other nationalities that I hope to also post on in the next few months.   


1.  Lark Eggs:  New and Selected Stories by Desmond Hogan-Desmond Hogan extended event now in process


2.  Cut Through The Bone by Ethel Rohan


3.  The China Factory by Mary Costello


4.  And:  Short Stories  by Jim Mullarkey


5.  West by Eddie Stack (completed July 2)


6.  Out of the Blue by Eddie Stack


7.  The Love Object by Edna O'Brien


8.  What's Not Said by James Martyn Joyce


As part of the Irish Quarter I will also post on Mentioning the War:  Essays and Reviews 1999-2011 by Kevin Higgins.   


I also will be posting very soon on stories by Danielle McClaughlin, Neal Jordon, Aidan Higgins, and Joyce Cary.


I have in the last few months been in receipt of a number of very interesting  books from authors outside the scope of the Irish Quarter.   I will still read and post on the ones I said I would in emails to the authors and publishers but I overall make no promise to post on a book just because someone gave it to me.   I also need to be allowed to post on the books when I can 


My greatest thanks to all of the participants.   Just as I said I would and did last year I will do a post in honor of the participants.   Because there are so many I will have to break to into two or three posts.   The first post will be a spotlight on those in their second year of participation in the event.   I think I will add a permanent post to my blog listing the Irish writers I have posted on, but I am still thinking on this.   


I am also going to very soon start another event which will run concurrent with the Irish Quarter.  The event will be "Short Stories of the Indian Subcontinent".   I will talk  more about it soon.   


I will also  continue posting on Short Stories of the Philippines   in conjunction with Nancy of A Simple Clockwork.   We are focusing on older stories, mostly at least from fifty years ago.   Nancy knows a great deal about Filipino culture so it is potentially valuable resource  for those interested in the field.


My blog will have its third year blog-a-versary on July 7 and I am sure that will stimulate me to do some posts on the over all future of the blog, as I see it now.   


Mel u







"The Marsh Drains Into The Deep" by John Sexton

A Guest Post by John Sexton
Flash Fiction
The Irish Quarter

"The Marsh Drains Into The Deep"

by John Sexton

As the woman gave birth to five sons a gray tiger entered by a window and ate the newborns one by one.
Outside, the moon shone down, its face as if stained with tears. Stooped willows trailed their hair into the glistening river; nightbirds stirred in the shadows. At his table the Emperor drank tea from a jade bowl. He slouched unhappily, his dream still fresh. Moonlight filtered in through the slats of the bamboo screen as the Emperor blew gently into the bowl.
Opposite sat the Empress, her face sliced by moonlight. Even now she looked beautiful, her hair as silver as the moon. Her eyes had the subdued luster of jade; her dark skin wrinkled like the folds of an exquisite peony. As she looked at the Emperor she knew he was unsettled, but they sat there in silence.
He would tell her if he could, for a dream is but a dream. But he sat there unspeaking. On the borders of his kingdom his armies were massing against the enemy. The signs had been auspicious. The oracle had told him to keep to his course. “The marsh drains into the deep,” it had said. “All accrues to greatness.” His advisers agreed this boded well.
The Empress rose and turned to go, her silk gown shining in the moonlight, its embroidered dragons stirring.
The Emperor gazed into his tea. In its dark mirror he pondered the war. On the battlefield his sons were preparing for daylight.


John W. Sexton (Republic of Ireland) is a poet, short-story writer, dramatist, children’s novelist, radio scriptwriter, and broadcaster. He is the author of three collections of poetry, The Prince’s Brief Career (Cairn Mountain Press, 1995); Shadows Bloom / Scáthanna Faoi Bhláth, a book of haiku with translations into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock; and, most recentlyVortex(Doghouse, 2005). He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTE radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes. His novels based on this series, The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed are both published by The O’Brien Press, and have been translated into Italian and Serbian. Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons Of Shiva, which has been released on Track Records.

My great thanks to John for doing me the honor of allowing me to publish this great story

Mel u


Friday, June 29, 2012

"The Last Time" By Desmond Hogan Day Eight Desmond Hogan Week

The Irish Quarter Year Two
 A Celebration of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to July 1
Desmond Hogan Week-June 18 to June 31  Day Eight
"The Last Time" -- The Weather
Co-Hosted  by Shauna Gilligan, Author of
Happiness Comes From Nowhere






I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –  
To tell one's name – the livelong June –  
To an admiring Bog!  --Emily Dickinson



Project Notes-Desmond Hogan Week has now been extended until at least June 31.  I will keep the name.   I am treating Hogan's work as "found objects", a way of looking at literary art from the long ago.   If you are new to the work of Hogan, I suggest you read his stories and Shauna Gilligan's very well done introductory post on his work.   This is not a closed event, if you are interested in doing a guest post, you are welcome to do so.


"The Last Time" (1989, 14 pages) is another superb short story.  It is narrated in the first person voice of a young Irish woman who grew up in a Catholic orphanage in Galway County.   Her mother was a prostitute and she never knew who her father was.   As I have mentioned before, in my reading of the works in Lark's Eggs and Other Stories  I am treating the works as found objects.    The main purpose of my series of posts is in fact to help me increase my understanding of the stories through the process of posting on them.   I do not have a great inclination in posting on these stories to retell the plots of the stories and will sort of try to talk about something a bit different in each post.   One of the things this story is about is deep loneliness and the absent father .(Declan Kibard in Inventing Ireland said that the absent or weak father is one of the dominant themes of Irish literature and I did do a scan of the collection for the word "father" and it came up 200 times).   The story is about about terrible loneliness her upbringing forced on the young woman.

The woman's story begins in 1953, it is a tale of the past remembered, a mode of narration used in several of the other stories by the author I have so far read.   She is looking back at a first love, real or imagined through the prism of time gone by, and the first stirrings of sexuality.   The memories are intermingled with books she has read, reflections on her growing up and her life subsequent to leaving Ireland.   It is another story about outsiders, throw away people nobody really cares about and whom "normal" people try to see as less human than they are.

I am growing increasingly interested in the role the weather seems to have on the kind and volume of literature a country seems to produce.   Can you imagine The Brothers Karamazov being written in the Bahamas?   It seems that most, not all, dark and brooding literature,much of the classics of the world, were written in colder climates, places with the seasons.   The rhythm of seasons is one of the root metaphors of literature, not just European by any means, and in places where this is not found I think it has a profound effect on the lack of literary production.  On a practical level the winter in colder climates kept people inside most of the time, often in cramped overcrowded places either way to cold or heated by unpleasant methods.   This provided plenty of time for inner driven thoughts, reading, and writing.   Per Frank O'Connor the short story often about deep human loneliness, even a craving for and a savoring of the pain of loneliness.   Just as my impression, there is very little of such a trait in the psyche of people from the tropical country about which I know the most, the Philippines.  I want to look a bit about how this applies this story.  (This is kind of a rambling post to which I can say only "Oh well".)

I have never been to Ireland but just from the people I have met online I know the weather in Ireland can often for long periods of times be described via a color as "grey".  The word "grey" appears twice in the first paragraph of "The Last Time" and sixty times in the collection as a whole.   Even some of the trees are grey.  The river is half shrouded in fog, a common weather condition in Ireland I think based on my research (just to get the feel for Irish weather I check the forecast in Galway and Dublin most days).   There are other color references in the first two pages, "salmon-colour" and "the color of autumnal drought".   These uses of color show the seasons and their effects have worked there way deeply into the consciousness of the speaker (and probably into most of the audience for this story).  Lawns are described as gloomy.

Our narrator does have red hair.  I know this also has a special meaning in Irish literature but I am not comfortable yet talking about it.   Jamesy was her first love.   She would see him in his garden cutting hedges or reading.   She describes his face as being like an interested hedgehog.   The nuns had gotten her a job as a maid, she is maybe 17 or so.   He did not read ordinary books but works like War and Peace, Fathers and Sons, and Chekhov stories.   He begins to loan her books to read and she reads them in her off hours, kind of on the sly, back at the orphanage.   One of the books was Nana by Emile Zola, interestingly about a prostitute.   They begin a very slow moving never getting beyond a kiss or hug courtship until one day her employer see Jamesy, from a sort of high class family, hugging her.   She at once fires her and informs the nuns.  Jamesy's father had always wanted him to be a dentist (I admit I laughed when I read the narrator say to herself that even though Jamesy was intelligent his father wanted him to be a dentist).  She ends up getting a lot worse job, this time scrubbing floors.   Jamsey leaves town to study to be a dentist.   She will see, but not speak to him, one more time in her life.

I really liked it somehow when she got the courage to move to London.  The years  go by and it looks like she is married to a decent hard working man with whom she has children.   She is so happy she can marry him without anyone from her past being there to look down on her.

The story has a superbly interesting close.   It is hard to determine how much of her emotions are true memories (if there is such a thing) and how much a fantasy structure to help her cope with her life.   We can see, it is never said, that the books she read changed her in a deep way, maybe caused her more pain than not.

"The Last Time" is a great story.   It can be read for sheer enjoyment as well as profound commentary on life.



Lilliput Press press publishes Hogan's work and offers two of his works as E-Books.   I found their catalogue totally fascinating.   They are the premier publishers of Irish related books, located in Dublin and established in 1984.

Shauna Gilligan's wonderful new novel Happiness Comes From Nowhere can be purchased on Amazon or The Book Depository.



Mel u



"Girl in The River Sallies" by John Sexton

A Guest Post by John Sexton for The Irish Quarter
Flash Fiction


"Girl In The River Sallies"


By John Sexton


For seven nights in a row he dreamt of an old man building a cage of thistles in the rough fields beside a river. As the old man worked, his hands torn from the handling, gray thistle seeds, like feathered moons, rose out from the cage. All the time that he worked the old man sang a song, just one verse over and over:
You speak the speech of muted stones,your face is passive, hard;no birdsong tumbles from your tonguebut birdsong ’s what I’ve heard
He had no idea what the dream meant. Each morning he would wake, the pale yellow walls of his room brightening in the sunlight, and would ponder the dream. But after the seventh night’s dream he went from the house with nothing in his pockets but the space for his hands and took the overgrown lane into the village. Beyond the village he asked a jackdaw for directions, not expecting an answer because he was only fooling, and no answer did he get.
As the day went on the wind increased and he had to turn up the collar of his coat and tie the buttons all the way to his throat. By midday the sky had turned dark and it began to rain in great slicing sheets.

Several miles from the village he turned off the road to get shelter from the rain. A thick ribbon of trees fringed the river that paced alongside the road, so he made for their cover.
Dizzy to its brim with floodwater the river tumbled triumphantly. He stood on its banks, amazed at the noise it was making, when something caught his eye. On the far side of the river a young woman was tangled hopelessly in the branches of willow that trailed its edge. She waved at him frantically, her body trapped in the thick osiers of sally. He strained to hear her voice but could make out nothing above the sound of the river. He stepped forward awkwardly, misjudging a jutted root, and, in that moment, slipped into the rushing waters.
Beneath the surface of the water all sound was gone. Nothing mattered. Nothing was. The river became seven nights of dreams. An old man built a cage of thistles. Gray seeds like feathered moons rose into the air. The old man sang a song one verse long, over and over, over and over.

Photo "Downy Thistle" courtesy of Joăo Estęvăo A. de Freitas, Santa Cruz, Portugal.


Author Bio of John Sexton



Author Bio

John W. Sexton was born in 1958 and lives on the south west coast of Ireland in County
Kerry. He is a poet, short story writer, dramatist, children’s novelist, radio scriptwriter
and broadcaster. He is the author of four collections of poetry: The Prince’s Brief Career,
Foreword by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, (Cairn Mountain Press, 1995), Shadows Bloom /
Scáthanna Faoi Bhláth, a book of haiku with translations into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock,
Vortex (Doghouse, 2005), and Petit Mal (Revival Press, 2009). A fifth collection, The
Offspring of the Moon, is due from Salmon Poetry for Spring 2013.

He also created and wrote the science fiction comedy-drama, The Ivory Tower, for RTE
radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes. His novels based on this series, The
Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed are both published by The O’Brien
Press, and have been translated into Italian and Serbian.

He has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons
Of Shiva, which has been released on Track Records. He has been nominated for a Hennessy
Literary Award for his short fiction and his poem “The Green Owl” won the Listowel
Poetry Prize 2007 for best single poem. He was awarded a Patrick And Katherine Kavanagh
Fellowship In Poetry for 2007/2008.

He is one of the most requested writers currently working under Poetry Ireland’s Writers-In-
Schools Scheme.



I thank John for allowing me to publish this wonderful flash fiction story.   Happily I am proud to announce I will be posting two more of his great short stories soon


Mel U

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Mrs. Frobisher’s Significant Moment" by John Sexton

A Guest Post by John Sexton

for The Irish Quarter Year Two
March 11 to July 1


"Mrs. Frobisher’s Significant Moment"


by John Sexton

The end of the world had started slowly, in the month of September, in Mrs. Frobisher’s garden. It had started in a small way, as all big things start.

She had been watching from her bedroom window, one cold, bright morning as the sun lit the tall boundary fence, when she noticed the color falling from the apples. As she had watched, they turned from red to a watery paleness. She stood up from her writing desk and leant forward, reasoning at first that it was just a trick of the sunlight, but could see quite clearly that the apples were colorless. As she continued to stare at the tree an apple fell from its branch and landed in the tall, uncut grass. A wave of pallor swept over the grass, through the entire lawn, until it was no longer green.
Mrs. Frobisher made her way from the bedroom and down the stairs to the back door. Through the glass window above the back door she could see a blackbird turning a chalky white, its orange beak shading into a dull ecru like old porcelain. The bird flew up into the sky, which Mrs. Frobisher could see was no longer blue, or grey, or anything. It was simply as if the sky was no longer there, as if she was looking into the purest nothing.

That evening the local vicar, Reverend D’Vere, called on Mrs. Frobisher with the parish council. As they sat at her kitchen table Mrs. Frobisher had great difficulty in making them out, blending as they did with everything else.
“We’re very concerned about the Fete on Saturday, Mrs. Frobisher,” announced the vicar from somewhere to her left.
“Excuse me, Vicar?” said Mrs. Frobisher, whose concentration had begun to wane.
“The Fete on Saturday. We’re very worried about it. Mrs. Bates was to be making the RhubarbTarts, but the rhubarb has gone off.”
“Gone off, Vicar?”
“Yes,” chimed in Mrs. Bates. “It’s got some sort of blight or something. Gone terribly pale, it has.”
Mrs. Frobisher sat in a daze. The whole world was becoming completely pallid and all they had noticed was a lack of color in the rhubarb.
Mrs. Frobisher fumbled at the table, trying to find the teapot, which she eventually located by its heat. Finding a teacup with a gentle sweep of her free hand she began to carefully pour a cup of tea. The tea, she noticed, was almost unnoticeable, and she had to guess when the cup was full, for fear she would spill it over the table.
And that, basically, was the beginning of the end of the world. A lot more happened after that, but nobody could really tell exactly what.

Photo "Apple" courtesy of Liana Myburgh, East London, South Africa.

Author Bio of John Sexton



Author Bio

John W. Sexton (Republic of Ireland) is a poet, short-story writer, dramatist, children’s novelist, radio scriptwriter, and broadcaster. He is the author of three collections of poetry, The Prince’s Brief Career (Cairn Mountain Press, 1995); Shadows Bloom / Scáthanna Faoi Bhláth, a book of haiku with translations into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock; and, most recentlyVortex(Doghouse, 2005). He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTE radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes. His novels based on this series, The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed are both published by The O’Brien Press, and have been translated into Italian and Serbian. Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons Of Shiva, which has been released on Track Records.

He is one of the most requested writers currently working under Poetry Ireland’s Writers-In-
Schools Scheme.




I thank John for allowing me to publish this wonderful flash fiction story.   Happily I am proud to announce I will be posting two more of his great short stories soon


I have previously posted two of John's stories.


Mel U

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"A Marriage in the Country" by Desmond Hogan

"A Marriage in the Country" by Desmond Hogan (1979, 20 pages)

The Irish Quarter Year Two
:  A Celebration of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to July 1
Desmond Hogan Week-June 18 to June 31
Day 7
Orphans and Russians
Co-Hosted  by Shauna Gilligan
author of 
Happiness Comes From Nowhere



"For the dandy's tragedy turns out to to have been the story of the bards who woke up to find themselves wandering spailpini, and of gentry reborn as tramps".  Declan Kiberd in Inventing Ireland

Project Notes-Desmond Hogan Week has now been extended until at least June 31.  I will keep the name.   I am treating Hogan's work as "found objects", a way of looking at literary art from the long ago.   If you are new to the work of Hogan, I suggest you read his stories and Shauna Gilligan's very well done introductory post on his work.   This is not a closed event, if you are interested in doing a guest post, you are welcome to do so.


"Marriage in the Country"

"Marriage in the Country" is a fascinating look at how madness is dealt with in the rural Ireland of the stories of Desmond Hogan.  And much much more.  I am not really into retelling the plots of the stories of Hogan, the biggest purpose of my posting on Hogan is to help me understand them.  The story is told in the third person and his  opening sentence for sure drew me in:  "She burned down half her house early that summer and killed her husband".   Magella, from a more or less decent family it seems, had married a pub owner twenty years older than her self and had a daughter with him.   Her daughter was taken away from and sent to live in Belfast but the courts decided not to put her in a mental hospital, figuring it was best to let her keep running the pub.

A Russian-Irish man moves to the village and sets up a garage, passing a lot of great plot action, they start a romance.   They have most of the romantic encounters in the woods and a young boy sees them and tells people about it and for this she is put in a mental hospital.  Sex with a man she is not married to warrants being put in a mental hospital but burning down a house with your husband does not.  

The man's father was a Russian sailor in town for the night, his mother a Wexford prostitute.  Before the woman was put in the mental hospital she and Boris had gone to visit her adult daughter in  Belfast.   This time the woman is much older than the man in her life, completely unacceptable in her time and place.   With the woman back in the mental hospital Boris starts up a romance with her daughter.   In the older woman "Boris was in way discovering a mother".   

There is a really lot in this great story.   I will talk more latter in my posts on some of the other stories in  Lark's Eggs and Other Stories on matters that are also dealt with in this story.  

I found this to be another great story.   It deals directly with loneliness, the need for a home, the lack of a father and being an outsider as do many of the other stories

Lilliput Press press publishes Hogan's work and offers two of his works as E-Books.   I found their catalogue totally fascinating.   They are the premier publishers of Irish related books, located in Dublin and established in 1984.

Shauna Gilligan's wonderful new novel Happiness Comes From Nowhere can be purchased on Amazon or The Book Depository.



Mel u







Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"It's Just Murder" by Gerry McDonnell


Flash Fiction in Epistolary Form!


Today I am very happy to present an original work of flash fiction by a very distinguished author.

IT’S JUST MURDER!
By Gerry McDonnell
Dear Mother,

Wish you were here. The weather is lovely. I’ve just murdered the family in
the mobile home next to me. They were making a lot of noise at night. When
I went to their door to complain, a foul-mouthed granny told me where to go.
She got it in the gut. Just before she died she looked at me bemused, cocking
her head to one side like a curious dog as she fell to the ground. I left her bony
frame where it lay, the better to frighten the others. I hope her life flashed
before her as they say it does; her filthy, selfish, in-bred life.

The man of the family, so to speak, a sinewy, tattooed, drink-sodden waster,
came to the door. He was nearly black from the sun, the lazy prick, baking in it,
drinking his cans with his ghetto-blaster blaring. It was his mother I’d just shot.
He stared at her limp body lying on the steps.

“What the f***”, he said.

His body jerked back, like a stick insect, a look of terror on his face. I believe
I was standing up to this bully for all those people he made to feel small. He
looked at me with his gob open, his dentures sitting on his tongue. He tried to
smile, as if to say, let’s be friends. I shot him in the mouth. I probably severed
his spinal cord because he collapsed wheezing, like an accordion.

Killing the son was easy and was done in a very appropriate manner. It was
poetic justice really. He tried to climb out a side widow but his obese body got
stuck half way. He was crying and screaming as I pulled down his shorts and
shot him up the ass, as the American’s say, that same ass that mooned at me
on my first day there. He would’ve taken some time to die in excruciating pain,
I imagine.

I read later that they were members of a notorious drug dealing family and
that the crime had all the viciousness of a gangland murder. It could not have
worked out better. Who’d miss them, spreading misery to all and sundry?

I’m sitting in a small cafe, in a little fishing village, further on down the coast,
just to be out of harm’s way, until things die down, so to speak. It’s just a
precaution since I don’t think a judge in the land would convict me. I’m having

1

a nice cup of tea and guess what, a sausage sandwich! Of course, not a patch
on yours. Remember the winter days when I used to prevail on you to let me
stay at home from school? I usually succeeded and you used to bring me up a
sausage sandwich in bed. Those were the days!

Will be home soon.

Your loving son, Bartholomew.

PS. It gets better. I got the gun from their mobile home when they were out
drinking the night before, no doubt intimidating people in the local town. I
don’t think I’ll go on a holiday like that again, thrown together with all sorts.
You were right. I’m much too sensitive!

END

Gerry McDonnell (JUNE 2012)

gerry.mcdonnell@ireland.com


Official Biography  of Gerry McDonnell


GERRY MC DONNELL was born in 1950 and lives in Dublin. He has had five collections
of poetry published. He has also written for stage, radio and television. His play Making It
Home, a two-hander father and son relationship, was first performed at the Crypt Theatre at
Dublin Castle in 2001. A radio adaptation of this play was broadcast on RTE Radio 1 in 2008
starring the acclaimed Irish actor David Kelly as the father and Mark Lambert as the son.
His play Whose Veins Ran Lightning, based on the life and work of the Irish poet James
Clarence Mangan (1803-1849), was performed at The New Theatre in Dublin in 2003. His
libretto for a chamber opera, The Poet and the Muse, (music by composer John Byrne) also
deals with Mangan. He has written for the Irish television series Fair City.

His interest in Irish Jewry has resulted in the chapbook; Jewish Influences in Ulysses
and a collection of monologues, Mud Island Elegy, in which Jews of 19th century Ireland
speak about their lives from beyond the grave. His stage play Song of Solomon, set on the
Royal canal in Dublin, has a Jewish theme. Mud Island Anthology, concerning ‘ordinary’
Dublin gentiles who lived in the latter half of the 20th century was published by Lapwing
Publications in 2009 and is a companion collection to the ‘Elegy’ poems. His latest collection
of poetry, Ragged Star, was published in 2011.

He is a member of the Irish Playwrights’ and Screenwriters’ Guild and the Irish Writers’
Union.

CONTACT:

gerry.mcdonnell@ireland.com

End of Guest Posts

Mel u

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Master Foynes His Galliard" by Fred Johnston


"Master Foynes His Galliard" by Fred Johnston (1973, 8 pages)


My musical education lags way behind my literary one    I did not have the slightest idea what "Galliard" means.   As it always seem to (there are those who claim that Google is some how causing a global dumbing down of the people of the earth, I am quite of the opposite opinion), Google came to my rescue.  Allow me to quote from Wikipedia




"As a dance, the galliard was definitely not one to be improvised. It had dancers combining patterns of steps which occupy one or more measures of music. In one measure, a galliard typically has five steps; in French such a basic step is called a cinq pas and in Italy, "cinque passi". This is sometimes written in English sources as sinkapace. These steps are: right, left, right, left, cadence.

The galliard is an athletic dance, characterised by leaps, jumps, hops and other similar figures. The main feature that defines a galliard step is the last two beats consist of a large jump, landing with one leg ahead of the other. This jump is called a cadence,and the final landing is called the posture. The sources generally describe movement patterns starting on the left foot, then repeating it starting with the right foot. A galliard pattern may also last twice as long, or more, which would "

The Galliard reached its heights of popularity as a musical form in the 16th century in France and Italy 

"Master Foynes His Galliard" is a fascinating story.   I always try to read the short stories I post on twice at least.   I read this story twice a week or more for three week and twice yesterday.   It is an infinitely captivating   story and in the very long ago I was instructed by old school formalists so I knew to see this story as a literary Galliard.   The story also begins at musical performance of a galliard by a distinguished group of musicians.   Two women old enough to have grown children are in attendance.   One is fascinated and the other is along for company.  The relationship of the women is complicated, it might be intimate it might not.   The women have both made lots of leaps in their lives, dancing in pairs of various sorts.  I know only those who have access to the book in which the story appears will be able to read it and my main purpose here is just to be sure my readers know of another very worth reading Irish short story writer.  


Official Author Biography




Born Belfast, Northern Ireland, Sept. 27th, 1951. Educated there and Toronto, Canada. Lived for a time
in Spain and Africa. Educated St Malachy's College, Belfast. Moved to Dublin in 1968, Galway 1976.
A new collection of stories is due from Parthian (Wales) in Spring 2011; 'Orangeman', a collection of
stories in French, appeared from Terre de Brume (France) in October 2010.
JOURNALISM:
Worked for some years as a fulltime journalist, writer and sub-editor: Irish Press, This Week
magazine, (1970), Woman's Choice (Creation Grp, Dublin), and Belfast Telegraph (sub-ed.) Two years
in public relations in Dublin: FOC here for a time and initiated the unionising of PR and Advertising
outfist in Dublin. Edited Westword Magazine, Galway and, for a time, two literary pages in The Galway
Advertiser, Galway.
CREATIVE WRITING:
Received Hennessy Literary Award for prose in 1972, judges V.S.Pritchett and James Plunkett.
Received Sunday Independent Short Story and Poem of the Month awards in 1981 and 1982
respectively. Co-founded, with Neil Jordan and Peter Sheridan, The Irish Writers' Co-operative in the
mid-Seventies. Has published four novels, eight collections of poetry (including Browne, a long poem,
from Lapwing Poetry, and True North, Salmon Poetry, published April 1997), had three plays
performed, one of which, No Earthly Pole, dealt with the ill-fated 1845 expedition of Sir John Franklin
to discover a North-West Passage. This was produced by Punchbag Theatre, Galway, for the Galway
Arts Festival. A collection of short stories, Keeping The Night Watch, published (1998). Atalanta,
novel, published 2000. Being Anywhere – New & Selected Poems, published 2001 (Lagan Poetry,
Belfast); The Oracle Room (Cinnamon Press, UK, 2007); Northern Lights – translations of the poems
of Colette Wittorski (Lapwing Publications, 2009.) Literature Bursary, Arts Council of Northern
Ireland, 2000; Prix de l’Ambassade 2000; Literature Bursary, Arts Council of the Republic, 2001 and
other years.
Most recent novel, ‘The Neon Rose,’ based in the Paris legal world, was published by
Bluechrome to acclaim from The Irish Times. New collection of poetry from Cinnamon, UK, ‘The
Oracle Room,’ appeared October 2007. Poetry written in French has appeared in France in the
following publications: Jointure, HOPALA! (dernier numéro), Revue Aero-Page, Aoujourd'hui
Poème, Fôret de Milles Poètes, Le Cerf-Volant (Paris), Éclats de Rêves, Ouste, In-Fusion, Le
Grognard, Art et Poésie de Touraine, Á Travers Champs, Portique, Tchatche (sur le Web), Le
Journal à Sajat (Paris,) L'OuvreBoite, La Page Blanche (en traduction), Comme en Poésie,
Traction-Brabant, Poésie du Monde (en ligne), Temporel (en ligne), Verso et La Moulin de
Poésie (Saintes), Le Capital des Mots (en ligne), Translation Ireland (en francais) et Les
Citadelles (2005 – en traduction.)
Founder of Galway's annual international literature festival, CÚIRT, in 1986. Writer-in-
Residence to the Princess Grace Irish Library at Monaco, 2004.
In the 'Eighties he wrote and broadcast for RTE Radio 1 a four-part series on the literary history
of the West of Ireland. In 1983 he produced the cassette recording, 'Poets in the West,' featuring poets
Gerald Dawe, Paul Durcan, the late Sydney Bernard Smith and his own work, with musicians Seán
Ryan and the late flute-player, Charlie Brown. Poetry and short stories have been published widely, in
this country, the US, Australia, Canada, broadcast by BBC radio, RTE, and BBC World Service. Poems
have appeared, for example, in the TLS (Times Literary Supplement),The Financial Times, The
Village, The Spectator, Studies, The Independent (London), The Sunday Times, The Irish Times, Irish
University Review, Poetry Ireland; prose in The London Magazine, Stand, anthologised by Pan Books,
and in The Literary Review (USA). Further information on published work can be supplied on request.
Visits France regularly and has read and lectured there.
FREELANCE WRITING:
Main poetry reviewer with Books Ireland for many years; reviews poetry also for The Irish
Times and The Sunday Tribune; books for The Irish Examiner, Cork, and visual arts for them also, as
well as arts features; visual arts reviewer for The Sunday Times. Has reviewed also: Irish University
Review, Harpers & Queen, Poetry Ireland Review. Interview pieces for Irish Music magazine. Also
written for some time for RTE's 'Sunday Miscellany' and various arts programmes. Writes on occasion
for An Irishman’s Diary, in The Irish Times. Broadcast travel pieces for RTE Radio’s Sunday
Miscellany and ‘The Quiet Corner,’for Lyric FM Radio (Ireland). Regular contributor and literary
commentator on Irish radio.
OTHER (Teaching, etc.):
Teaches Creative Writing at NUIG (Adult Education). Has given workshops on creative writing
widely at a variety of literary and arts festivals. Edits a small Galway-based magazine. Has taught
English as a foreign language. Keen interest in Classical and traditional Irish music; has recorded two
albums with Parsons Hat and two solo albums. Founded and organiser of Kinvara Writers' Group.
Founder of the Western Writers’ Centre – Ionad Scríbhneoiri Chaitlín Maude – based in Galway
(www.twwc.ie) Please inform me should you wish to obtain further details.
FRED JOHNSTON



His most recent collection of short stories, Dancing In the Asylum,  was published in 2011.  Here is the publisher's description of the book:

Paying for friendship, angry knicker-flashing at ex-pats, gay cruising at a medieval carnival... not exactly what an outsider might expect of folks from the small towns of Ireland.
These short stories introduce us to a host of fascinating characters. Sometimes funny, occasionally grotesque, always poignant, these pieces paint a wonderfully unexpected portrait of a place and its people in a time of great change, each page unfolding a delicate or deliciously devious secret.

More information can be found on the publisher's webpage

Mel u

"The Ring" by Byron MacMahon

"The Ring" by Byron MacMahon (1976, 4 pages)

The Irish Quarter
A Celebration of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to ?

Resources and Ideas 


Please consider joining us for The Irish Quarter:  A Celebration of the Irish Short Story,  Year Two, March 12 to July 1.   All you need do is post on one short story by an Irish author and send me a comment or an email and I will include it in the master post at the end of the challenge. 

"The Ring" by Byron MacMahon (1909 to 1998, county Kerry)  was a novelist, playwright and short story writer.  One of his sons was a judge of the Irish High Court.

"The Ring" (I read it in The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories selected by William Trevor) packs nearly a full family history in just a very few pages.   You can feel the emotionally constrained emotion atmosphere of the family in the story which belies great depths of feeling.  

The story is set on a farm in Tipperary.  In this first person story we can reconstruct a lot of hidden history from what the narrator tells us about his grandmother, a very formidable woman.  

As the story opens it is time for the hay to be harvested.  This is a very crucial time on the farm as it brings in a lot of the badly needed cash income.
While she is working on the hay, the grandmother's wedding ring falls  in the haystack and seems lost.   I really appreciated the logic behind her not allowing anyone to help her look for it as she feels only she can do a proper job of looking for it.

When the emotional break through in this story does come it is all the more powerful as the family is so constrained in the emotions and in the way they show their feelings for each other.   This is a good story and I cannot imagine anyone not being glad they read it.

Mel u

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Victoria" by Desmond Hogan


The Irish Quarter Year Two
:  A Celebration of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to July 1
Desmond Hogan Week-June 18 to June 31
Day Six
Proper Nouns and European History
Co-Hosted  by Shauna Gilligan
author of 
Happiness Comes From Nowhere




Project Notes-Desmond Hogan Week has now been extended until at least June 31.  I will keep the name.   I am treating Hogan's work as "found objects", a way of looking at literary art from the long ago.   If you are new to the work of Hogan, I suggest you read his stories and Shauna Gilligan's very well done introductory post on his work.   This is not a closed event, if you are interested in doing a guest post, you are welcome to do so.  I also found the Youtube has lots of videos related to Irish Travellers.  Some are serious documentaries and interviews and some are nasty  shows that depict travellers as fools and welfare spongers.   

"Loneliness"

Now it is Loneliness who comes at night
Instead of Sleep, to sit beside my bed.
Like a tired child I lie and wait her tread,
I watch her softly blowing out the light.
Motionless sitting, neither left or right
She turns, and weary, weary droops her head.
She, too, is old; she, too, has fought the fight.
So, with the laurel she is garlanded.

Through the sad dark the slowly ebbing tide
Breaks on a barren shore, unsatisfied.
A strange wind flows... then silence. I am fain
To turn to Loneliness, to take her hand,
Cling to her, waiting, till the barren land
Fills with the dreadful monotone of rain 
Katherine Mansfield

Victoria" (2003)
When Prince Albert died she said "Now there is no one left to call me Victoria"
Today I will post on one of Hogan's more recent stories the very interesting "Victoria".   In adition to talking about the stories and what happens in them I will look at one feature of the work of the author in a bit more detail. Today I will ponder why a narrator who is seemingly talking to younger Irish Travellers with whom he lives about things many people with advanced degrees  may never have heard about in their entire lives.    In the ten page or so story (page counts will differ for me from the print edition as it depends on how you set your Kindle) there are over fifty proper nouns related to English, Irish, and European history and geography.  
I think the author is somehow trying to show how outsiders view centrifugal history, why only an Irishman or woman who sees Ireland through the eyes of an outsider can truly see this.   This is much the same thing Declan Kibard said in his brilliant chapter on Oscar Wilde.  Then the deeper question becomes why these pronouns and not others.   (I know this post will interest only those already into Hogan's work and I am in fact trying to do something different in these posts than I have in all but a few of my others.)

Here are some of the proper nouns used in "Victoria":  English, Gypsy, Romeo, Shetland, Rath Kaell, Spanish, Vickers Trailer, Gort Pier, Liverpool, Victoria, Princess Margaret, Colby,
Royal Deer Forest, Corby,  World War II, Serbia, World War I, Europe, Christmas, Vale of Evesham, Mulhuddolt, Dublin, Wilstead, Bedfordshire, John Bunyan, Stow, Epson Derby,
Germany, Russia, Catherine the Great, Appelby Fair, the Furher, Giraldus Cambrensis, Anglo Saxon, Quaker Pegg Derby Set, Taskers, Royal Munsters Fusliers and Cyclist Company, Japanese, Kilrush, Nenagh Fair, Limerick Junction, St Patrick's Night, 1945, American, British Army, George the IV, Beau Brummell, France, Christian Brothers, Galway, Tipperary, Kilkee, 1944, Ballinasloe Horse Fair, Sophia-Augusta, the House of Anhalt-Zebst, Empress Elizabeth, Russian Orthodox, Peter III, Gerit van Honthorst's Child of Christ, St Joseph, Hitler, General von Schleicher and Rubens (and there are lots more)


"Victoria" is narrated in the first person and as mentioned earlier, by a man who is not an Irish Traveller but who apparently lives with a group of English Gypsies talking to a young Gypsy man.   (My research indicates the formal education of Travellers and Gypsies lacks way behind the population of Ireland as a whole which makes sense and one would be able to infer this anyway from the life styles of the travellers depicted in the story.)   The narrator has to know the man he is talking do does not know what many of these nouns refer to other than the English and Irish place names.  We see he knows this in this remark "Kerrin looked around my caravan as if it were a foreign country".   

The story is in part  an interior monologue  and in part a one sided conversation with Kerrin Sanger who in fact was "a little English Gyspy boy".  ( English Gypsy's are intermarried with Travellers and  the English unknowingly refer to Irish Travellers in England as Gypsies.)   The speaker of the story knows for sure that Kerrin does not know what he is talking about.  Anyway I do not want this post to get out of control but I do want to take a look at a few of the Proper Names used and why I think they are in "Victoria", a seemingly simple but in fact very sophisticated story.  

John Bunyan -The author of a great travel book, Pilgrim's Progress is referenced as coming from a family that have been tinkers for many generation.  "Tinkers" are another Irish term for travellers and gypsies as they were often seen as repairers of pots and pans.   We are seeing maybe one of the most treasure of English classics might have traveller roots, what was once an outsiders work  is now an ossified classic to most who will never read it.   Or at least the narrator wants to think that might be true.

Giraldus Cambrensis was a medieval Welsh chronicler who wrote of peacocks in the woods, this thought is somehow related to our stimulated by the knowledge that Kerrin hunts for wild peacocks.   

Catherine The Great and Empress Elizabeth-why is this in the story, is it just something pulled at random from the narrator's copious memory?   Catherine the Great was a 15 year old from a minor German house in the 18th century when Empress Elizabeth married her to her half wit son Peter III and set her on the path to be Empress of Russia.  I think we are being put in mind the capricious nature of political power, one day your are a Czar and the nest day you are murdered and displaced by a teenage girl.  Power in the centrifugal world is arbitrary, capricious and based on violence.

Victoria Travellers were very loyal to the crown and greatly admired the marriage of Queen Victoria, subjects the crown could not care less about were totally loyal to the Queen while holding the government in the same contempt in which it held them.  Also, as referenced in the devasting last line of this story named for her, once her husband Prince Albert died she spent decades in great loneliness.    Of course the line maybe just something the narrator comes up with off the top of his head.

George the IV and Beau Brummel- (Admission, I am relying on an old movie for this) George IV was very lonely, surrounded by stooges and sycophants and not able to marry the woman he loved, with no actual friends.  Beau Brummel, a figure who was a stylized version of an English Gentleman was his only friend, he died broke and alone leaving George IV once again alone.

These are just a few of the Proper Nouns.   The many place names show that outsiders really may know more about the culture they are excluded from than insiders.   

Why does the speaker talk way he does?    He knows for sure the Gypsy Boy does not know of most of those items he refers to, but he is not an intellectual bully or a show boater.   My conjecture  is he is unable to really talk to the Gypsy boy (and the others in the caravan with whom he lives) about much of anything that come from his deepest concerns so he is just talking to fill a void. He probably has never had anyone in his whole life he really could talk to without caution or holding back.  He also knows there is something wrong with him but he does not know what it is.   All these cultural and place name references are his attempt to place himself in the culture that he is unable to really find his feet with.   His paradox is he understands   much but not himself.

He may also be trying to take control of history in his stories.  Many of the references he uses are not learned in public schools kind of material, the things only years of wide self-directed reading could bring one to know, perhaps with no coherent overview behind it or perhaps even profounder with a subconscious repudiation of all grand schemes.

"Victoria" is a wonderful work of art, there is much more to be found in this story than I have mentioned or no doubt that I have been able to perceive with only three readings.


 Lilliput Press press publishes Hogan's work and offers two of his works as E-Books.   I found their catalogue totally fascinating.   They are the premier publishers of Irish related books, located in Dublin and established in 1984.


Shauna Gilligan's wonderful new novel Happiness Comes From Nowhere can be purchased on Amazon or The Book Depository.






Mel u