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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Clocking Out" by Madeline D'Arcy

"Clocking Out" by Madeleine D'Arcy (2011, 4 pages)

Irish Short Story Week Year Two
March 11 to July 1

Madeline D'Arcy

Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two.   Everything you need to participate is in the resources page, including links to 1000s of short stories, from brand new ones to stories now in the public domain.   Guests posts are also welcome.   Emerging Irish Women is now a full term event.

April Prize for a Participant- I am happy to announce that a randomly selected participant in ISSW2 will receive a copy of the Frank O'Connor Prize listed work, Somewhere in Minnesota through the kindness of the author, Orfhlaith Foyle.  If you are a participant in the event please email me to be in the drawing for this wonderful collection of short stories.

"I wish I had known the things I needed to know in life at the time I should have known them".

"Clocking Out" is a very sad story told in the first person about the life experiences of a young woman  fresh out of her home in an area in suffering through bad times, with few jobs to be found.   The woman has seemingly very few inner resources and her low self esteem makes her an easy target for a sexual predator and a user who also happens to be the foreman at the factory where she assembles computer boards.  We know this married man has preyed on other women before.   

At first the story seems as if it only narrating a few days but there are years and years in these few  pages.    I do not want to tell the plot of the story but I thought how D'Arcy managed the time span in just a few pages was really masterful.  I felt like I was on the tube with the young woman, trying to be invisible so the posh people will not see me in this really great passage.

I had to leave that job. That’s why I’m here in London. I’m on my way to work now, on the Piccadilly line. There’s a trendy couple sitting opposite me. They have money and they’re smart. You know it by the look of them. He has a nice shirt and jeans, and the kind of shoes called “casual” even though they cost just as much as Sunday shoes. She’s wearing clothes that seem almost colourless and plain, but they’re not plain plain, if you know what I mean. They’re classy. You wouldn’t find that kind of gear back home where I’m from. This man and woman – I’m not jealous of them. At least I don’t think so. 

The tubes of the world are full of people just like this nameless woman, wondering why they are what they are and others are what they are.

The woman has a job doing clean up work in the hospital and her social life consists of going to dances where only the boys who are drunken louts ask her to dance, and she accepts for fear of seeming stuck up.

There is a raw and a savage event at the heart  of this dark story, one that cuts through all the vacuous lives of the posh people on the tube and the second rate pretty boys at dance.

One of the lessons we can learn, if we are open to it, from literature is to see the humanity in others.   If we dehumanize the cleaning ladies we see on the way to work on the tubes, working shifts nobody wants we are debasing our own humanity.

"I wish I had known the things I needed to know in life at the time I should have known them".-This thought from the consciousness of the woman, maybe not so young now, echos well the deepest thought of G W F Hegel "The Owl of Minerva flys only at dusk".  

"Clocking Out" by Madeleine D"Arcy is a wonderful work of art, fully in accord with Frank O'Connors notions of how the best short stories work.

You can read "Clocking Out" here  (this story is under international copyright to Madeleine D'Arcy and is her intellectual property.)

Here is the official biography of D'Arcy

Madeleine D’Arcy was born in Ireland and later spent
thirteen years in the UK. She worked as a criminal law
solicitor and as a legal editor in London before returning to
Cork City in 1999 with her husband and son.

She began to write short stories in 2005.

In April 2010 she was presented with a Hennessy X.O Literary
Award 2009 in the First Fiction category for her short story “Is
This Like Scotland?” and also received the overall Hennessy
X.O Literary Award for New Irish Writer.

One of her stories came joint-second in the William Trevor/
Elizabeth Bowen Short Story Competition 2011.

She has been short-listed in the Fish Short Story Prize 2008, the
Bealtaine Short Story Competition 2008, the Over the Edge New
Writer of the Year Competition 2009 and 2011, the Brian MacMahon Short Story
Competition 2009 and the Bridport Prize 2009 (UK). She received commendations in
the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competitions 2009 and 2011.

In June 2010 she was part of a group of six Irish writers sponsored by Culture Ireland
who attended the 11th International Conference on the Short Story in English, held in

Also in 2010, she was awarded a Cork City Council Artists Bursary for the
purpose of funding a mentor to advise on her novel.

She was awarded an Arts Council Bursary in 2011.

Her stories have been published in the Sunday Tribune (April 2009), in Made
in Heaven and Other Short Stories (Cork County Library and Arts Service
publication, May 2009), in the Anthology Sharp Sticks, Driven Nails (Stinging
Fly Press, October 2010), in Etherbooks Mobile Publishing (October 2010),
in the Irish Examiner (Holly Bough, December 2010), in Necessary Fiction
(, March 2011, in the Irish
Independent (5th October 2011) and in the Irish Times (26th November, 2011).

Madeleine has read her work in Dublin, in Toronto and at the Frank O’Connor Short
Story Festival in Cork.

She is working on a novel set in Cork and London during the years 1980 to 2005. The
novel was short-listed by Gillian Slovo for the JG Farrell Award 2011.

Her debut unpublished short story collection is currently short-listed for the Scott
Prize 2012 (UK).

I hope to post on a collection of her short stories one day soon

Mel u


Caroline said...

Extremely sad, I just read the story. I like the bit you quoted very much. Time is done nicely indeed. It's a whole life in 4 pages.

Anonymous said...

A powerful story. Very moving.
Glad to hear you plan to review more Irish writers in March 2013, Mel :)

Anonymous said...

url didn't come up there