Irish Short Story Month Year III
March 1 to March 31
Please consider joining us for the event. All you need to do is complete a post on any Irish Short Story or related matter. If you like you can post on a biography of a writer or a work of Irish history that you feel helps understand the Irish short story and let me know about it. I will publicize your post and keep a master list. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. You are also welcome to guest post on my blog if you wish.
One of the common threads to the Irish short story is a sense of how people become isolated as they age. In our younger days we tend to more easily form attachments than in older years. As we age and survive the death of the people with whom we were close, we become more and more isolated and dwell more and more in the past. I think this is amplified in many Irish short stories because of the isolation of rural communities and the reticence of what one might call the Irish character. I have posted several times on short stories that illustrate exactly these points from James Joyce's "A Painful Case" to "A Sense of Humour" by Mary Dorcey. This is also tied up with a viewing of Ireland as a translucent necropolis. You can see this in "The Dead" and in short stories by brand new MFA graduates.
"Dearest Everyone" by Judy Kravis is told in the first person by an elderly man who lives in a hotel in Switzerland (I think this is where it is but it is in the alps for sure). He worked there for many years as the caretaker. Now the owners of the hotel are dead, no one stays there anymore and control of it will be tied up in the courts for a long time as heirs fight over it. The man spends a lot of time looking back on his life. His future is just going to be looking out the window at the snow as he waits to die. Kravis does a magnificent job of letting us how the long lingering death of his wife pushed him into isolation and detachment and focused his world in a very deeply defined way:
"My wife took a slow and specific leave of life; she forgot food and then the outside world, time and then place. I came to enjoy looking after her, taking her pulse, reminding her to take her pills. I came into my own as she went out of hers. More than half a century it took. Something took. You can be with someone all those years and not know what’s taking. Then one day you’re putting pills on a saucer at three-hourly intervals and taking her pulse, and then you know."
Taking care of the ill in a strange way relieves us of our other issues. If you have ever taken care for a long time of a sick loved one, you will know what I mean.If you don't then don't worry about it.
The man is educated. He has read the Russian and Thomas Mann. He may, this is not real spelled out, be of Russian Jewish descent. He was once able to keep highly refined people spell bound with his words. That is all we know. He is talking to himself so he does not need to spell it out for himself. He also reflects on how stories create lives and lives stories.
There are also very wonderful descriptions of the mountains and how living with such majestic beauty impacts people.
The story is really a kind of letter to everyone, everyone he ever knew or that he matter to.
There was a time, a pretty long time when I would have agreed with these lines:
"I would be happy to die in a hotel, a room number on my key and my belongings down to a couple of bags."
My life has changed since I would have agreed with that but for sure I understand it.
I read this story in Scealta: Short Stories by Irish Women.
JUDY KRAVIS has recently published stories in The Dublin Review and poetry in Metre and the Salzburg Poetry Review. She has collaborated on many works with artist Peter Morgan, including Lives Less Ordinary: Thirty-Two Irish Portraits, Tea with Marcel Proust and When the Bells Go Down: A Portrait of Cork City Fire Brigade. Their two most recent books are Revealing Angelica and The Beach Huts of Port Man’ech. Judy Kravis teaches French literature and looks after a large garden in Co. Cork.
I hope to read her book Lives Less Ordinary: Thirty-Two Irish Portraits one day.
I really enjoyed and was made to think deeply by this story.