"A literary lunch" (2012)
Two Short Stories by
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne
The Shelter of Neighbors
Fox, Scarecrow, Swallow and The Dancers Dancing as well as a brilliant short story, "Trespass". I recently acquired her latest collection of short stories The Shelter of Neighbors (2012). Today I will post briefly on the first two stories (of 14) in the collection.
"The man who had no story" is the lead story. It is about Finn O'Keefe and his wife Grainne. Finn is a teacher who would rather be a writer and is wife is a teacher also. They have rented a summer house for six weeks. He is trying to write a travel book about the south of Ireland. He and his wife take long walks in the beautiful countryside. Then trouble starts. It starts to rain a lot and Grainne's back starts hurting. Then their son minding the house back in Dublin calls to say the cat is not eating so they have to go back to tend to this problem. The vet charges them a very big fee for treating the cat and then suggests maybe he needs to be out down. They refuse and the cat makes a come back. This cheers them up a lot. I can relate directly to this as in the last year or so of the life of our beloved cat Mr. C it seemed like he was going to pass several times then recovered so I understand these emotions. The story goes a lot into their time during their six weeks holiday. The man decides he will write a short story, one that will make his name again. He thinks how he was considered a promising writer a long time ago. The problem is now he can think of nothing to write about even though he teaches creative writing. I think the part of the story I liked best was the story within a story about Dermot O'Keefe and the fairies. This is kind of a challenging short story to write about as so much is going on in it. It is also about marriage, about the feeling of knowing your best days are behind her and the power of stories to keep us going. It is the work of a master of the form.
"A Literary Lunch" is set, as was Fox, Scarecrow, Swallow among the literary elite of Dublin, not so much great writers as people who sit on boards that give out government grants that can enable one to write. With a grant you can work full time on your novel, without one you have to work at a job and then write in what ever time is left. The setting of the story is a literary lunch of a board that gives out grants. They have just had a three hour meeting so the chairman, Alan, decides they deserve lunch at one of Dublin's best and most expensive restaurants, all paid for by government grants, of course. There are three women on the board, one man who never comes to meetings but won the Man Booker Prize, and eight other men. You can see the chairman delights in his power to give out grants. The story is very funny and punctures a lot of bloated egos. It was fun to see people wondering how expensive a lunch they should get. The bill was very high. There is something going on in the background with one of the women. She has a relationship of some kind with a man whose grant application was to be decided at the meeting and she had promised to call him as soon as she could to let him know what happened. I will leave the rest of the story unspoiled. It was a great pleasure to see the literary lions of Dublin through the author's very perceptive eyes. We get to know a good bit about the man trying for a grant and I felt his very real pain and accepted his bitterness.
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne (1954, Dublin) is the author of eight novels, four in English and four in Irish. She has a PdD from The National University of Ireland, focusing on the work of Chaucer as part of an oral tradition. She has taught at the University College Dublin and was for many years a curator at The National library in Dublin. She also teaches creative writing. Her novel, The Dancers Dancing, was short listed for the 2000 Orange Prize.
You can learn more about her work on her webpage
I will read all of the stories in the collection and I am sure I will be moved to post on several of them. I am looking forward to the experience.