Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Somewhere in Minnesota" by Orfhlaith Foyle  (2010, 20 pages)

21th Century Stories

Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two, March 12 to March 22.   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. 

"She remembered drifters she had listened to, Americans speaking their language carefully, scholarly, as if they were in exile from somewhere else invisible yet congruent with the land she lived in; and walkers along the roads at night, zooming in and out of your headlights without looking up, too far from any town to have a real destination. "-From The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Frank O'Connor in his landmark work The Lonely Voice:   A Study in the Short Story  says that the most powerful short stories are often about people in what he called "submarginal groups".    By "submarginalized"  he means people that have no one to speak for them by virtue of their status in society.   He felt that the short story  at its best is deeply focused on loneliness.   

I think in Orfhlaith Foyle's brand new collection of short stories, Somewhere in Minnesota,  the submarzinalized have found a powerful hauntingly beautiful voice.    I think she understands  Pynchon's "walkers along the roads at night" and knows what it means to be "in exile from somewhere else invisible yet congruent with the land she lived in".    Foyle's voice is not that of those from a world of full sunlight.   One of the best gifts writers of short stories about the submarginlized can give us is to let us see ourselves as at least some of the time as a member of such a group.   This may seem ironic or odd at first but I think extensive reading for many years can submarginalize a person.    One can be submarginalied through seeing or knowing too much, or by a fantasy world  that one has moved into.   

There are nineteen stories in Somewhere in Minnesota.       I will try to quote enough from her story to allow you to see for yourself if you like her prose style and I also will post a link where you can read  one of her stories.

The title story "Somewhere in Minnesota" is a woman, from Ireland I think, eating alone in a small restaurant in Duluth, Minnesota.    The waitress asks her about the bruise on her face:
I was sitting in a diner in god-knows-where in Duluth,
Minnesota during wintertime and the waitress was
concerned for me. She liked my accent and noticed my
bruised face.
She said: ‘Who’s been hurting you, sweetheart?’
I don’t like it when people use sweet language on
strangers. Sweet language belongs to lovers. But she was
kind. A little bit old with worn blonde hair, the sort that
was dying before she was and the fat had fallen in her
Hetty, the waitress, call out to John, one of the regular patrons of the bar.   John notices the mark on her face.
 "Now some men you just know they like to see hurtwomen. John stared right at me and the muscles jumpedacross his jaw and his eyes lit, before his head went backdown over the menu"
There appears to be a tie between John and Hetty, a common interest in the woman.   I got the feeling she was not the first lonely woman to stop in for a meal when John was also there.  The narrator tells us something very interesting about herself:
"When I was a little girl my mother said that I watched
people too much. I made them scared and angry, she

Somehow I was shocked even though it is not hidden from us when Hetty suggested that she and John and the woman go back to her place where they could at least give the woman a bath.   The innocent suggestion had lots of  dark erotic power.   I will leave the rest of the story untold.  Foyle makes this one small incident in a simple restaurant tell the story of the brief  once in a life time connecting point of three lives.  

Órfhlaith Foyle was born in Africa to Irish parents. Her first novel Belios was published by The Lilliput Press in 2005. Revenge, an anthology of her poetry and short fiction was published by Arlen House also in 2005. Her first full collection of poetry Red Riding Hood’s Dilemma was published by Arlen House in 2010 and later short-listed for the Rupert and Eithne Strong Award in 2011. Her first full collection of short stories Somewhere in Minnesota and Other Stories is to be published by Arlen House in 2011. The title story was recently published in Faber and Faber’s New Irish Short Stories; edited by Joseph O’ Connor. Órfhlaith is currently writing her second novel.

There is a very interesting interview with Foyle here.

The author has her own blog here.

I recommend  Somewhere in Minnesota to all lovers of short stories.   

"Somewhere in Minnesota" is included in New Irish Short Stories edited and introduced by Joseph O'Connor (2010).

Mel u

1 comment:

@parridhlantern said...

Loved that story, when I first read it & the whole book's a great collection of tales.