Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Q and A Session with Lane Ashfeldt

Irish Short Story Month Year III
March 1 to March 31

 Author of Saltwater

I first because acquainted with the work of Lane Ashfeldt when I read her superb collection of short stories, Saltwater.  (My post on Saltwater is here.)  Saltwater  is a unique collection of short works of fiction, all inspired by the sea.  Ashfeldt,  understands  how a proximity to the ocean can permeate the mind. 

 It is as if next to your mundane limited life is something of great power and beauty which can destroy in a capricious or peevish moment.  I think the Irish psyche has been deeply affected by the Island nature of the country and the proximity of the ocean.  In Irish history, the ocean was the source of food, took people out of the country forever when times were bad, and was a wild power beyond human control.   It is these impulses that Ashfeldt deals with in the amazing stories in

I am very honored that Lane Ashfeldt has agreed to do a Question and Answer Session for Irish Short Story Month Year III.

Author Data

Lane Ashfeldt is an award-winning short story writer, and a Dubliner. Her short fiction has been published in literary journals across Ireland, England, Greece and the US, and published in anthologies from ‘Punk Fiction’ to the rather more genteel ‘Dancing With Mr Darcy’. Her book of short stories, SaltWater (2013) has been called: A gorgeous collection by a bright talent.” (Nuala Ní Chonchúir) and A superb collection of powerful and evocative stories 
-Danielle McLaughlin

William Butler Yeats said in The Literary Movement that “The popular poetry of England celebrates her victories, but the popular poetry of Ireland remembers only defeats”. How do you think this has shaped Irish literature?’

Oh, god. Big question. Certainly doing school history in Ireland in the late 20th century, we’d to study a phenomenal number of failed risings/rebellions/revolutions. I kept looking forward to learning about the real revolution - the one that won - but it never happened. 1916 and what followed gave rise not toone Ireland, but to the Republic plus Northern Ireland, with a line scored between them that spelled Trouble. So when we reached 1916 we’d jump-cut back to 16-something, and conquest and colonization would start all over. I remember putting my hand up and asking could we go on to independence, but the teacher said no, it wasn’t on the syllabus.
Post-millennium, Ireland’s heroes are very different: sportspeople and pop stars and other celebrities. I wonder what Yeats or Pádraig Pearse would make of that?

How important are the famines are to the modern Irish psyche?

All I’m saying is this: there’s a famine museum in the town my mum is from, Skibbereen, and they have real problems getting people through the door.

What is the best bookshop in Dublin?

The Gutter Bookshop. Or The Winding Stair. Or maybe Easons. All good in different ways.

Can you recommend a good place to visit if I’m in Dublin?

Mel, I get the feeling you won’t be mad about the Guinness factory or the Old Jameson Distillery, so I suggest you go to Parnell Square which is full of history and strange things. At No 18 there’s the Dublin Writers Museum and, next door, the Irish Writers Centre. Across the road is the Garden of Remembrance where heroes of the 1916 revolution were imprisoned on their way to Kilmainham Gaol. I was once stopped and searched here by a burly Garda Siochána for taking photos of the Children of Lir statue. Sinn Féin HQ at No 44 Parnell Square was coming up in the background, maybe that is why. Or maybe the guard was just bored. Finally, to round off your tour, wander round the other side of the square to No 42 where you’ll find the Moving Crib.

Why do you think there is so much drinking in Irish Short stories?

Hmm. It all depends how you look at it. Maybe you drink too much. Or maybe you don’t, and people only think you do if they know you’re Irish. That’s the way stereotypes work. There were loads of drunken Irish in books and films in the past, but I’d struggle to link this with Ireland or Irish writing today. Personally I’ve written only one story that vaguely fits, The Plough and The Stars. It’s set in a London Irish pub, but could equally be set in the pub I worked in as a student, the Parnell Mooney. (There were no grants in Ireland then, and I had to earn my fees.) The stuff I studied at university is long gone, but I still remember what they taught me at the Parnell Mooney: ‘a pint’ means a pint of Guinness, and ‘a pint and a chaser’ means a Guinness and a Jemmy (shot of Jameson’s whiskey). I loved the simplicity of it. People rarely ordered anything else. Unless they were on the red lemonade, which happened more often than you might think. Here’s a review.

Who is your favourite Irish writer of the moment?

This is on the strength of one story, but I hope to read more by Danielle McLaughlin, whose story I read in Southword 22 when they published one of mine in the same issue. Danielle has just won the Willesden Prize, so she obviously has a few more stories worth reading. I also like the writing of Colum McCann, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Kevin Barry, Edna O’Brien, John MacKenna, Anne Enright, Colm Toibín.... and lots more. One of the first books of Irish stories I bought was by film director Neil Jordan.

Do you prefer ereading or traditional books?

I love the immediacy of wolfing a single random story straight off the web. My e-reading link of the week was this in progress sample of the graphic novel version of Ulysses, and an electronic version of the anthology Beacons - Stories for Our Not So Distant FutureBut because I work onscreen a lot, I like to read on paper, too.

Finally, where in Dublin can I eat a good Irish stew?

I’m not allowed order stew when I eat out in Ireland. Mum’s orders: “Home-made is best.” Everyone else’s mum seems to say the same thing, because in Cork city the closest you’ll get is a Moroccan-style Lamb Tagine. In Dublin last week, I ate a burger at the all-night place on O’Connell Street, but with the horse-meat scandal you may want to give it a miss. I know, Mel, here’s one to fit with your tour of Parnell Square. The pub where I pulled pints as a student is now some kind of gourmet bar, renamed the Parnell Heritage Bar and Grill. No stew unless you count Mediterranean fish stew, but try the Clonakilty and Apple - black pudding with apple fries. You’ll find the menu at, which is a perfect metaphor for how the revolution is always commodified (eventually!) and is a good place for me to stop.

End of Q and A

Commodify Lane’s revolution: SaltWater (the Kindle version) is on special offer in March.

I am very honored that Lane Ashfeldt has shared her thoughts with us.

She has also very kindly allowed me to post one her her short stories form the collection, "Roaring Water Bay" on The Reading Life.  You can read it here.

Mel u

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