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 10, 2012

Eimear Ryan "Cold Cuts" and "Reclining Woman, Unfinished Face"

"Cold Cuts" (2011, four pages) and "Reclining Woman, Unfinished Face" (2012, 3 pages) by Eimear Ryan

Irish Short Story Week Year Two
March 11 to July 1
Emerging Women Writers-Full Term Event

Eimear Ryan

Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week, now set to end July 1.  Eimear Ryan is the six Emerging Irish Woman that has now been featured on for my event.  I can only partially predict the future of the book blog world but I bet if somebody does an Irish Short Story Week in 2032 some of these writers will for sure be on the list.  (An explanation for my focus on women writers is here.)  I had at first planned just to make this a one week event but now it will be a recurring motif of Irish Short Story Week Year Two.   I already have four writers in the que but I am actively seeking recommendations for more.  

"Reclining Woman, Unfinished Face" appears in Horizon Review, edited by Nuala Ni Chonchuir, in the April 2012 edition.  (I will post a link where you can read these delightful stories at the end of my post.)  I think this very brief short story is an example of flash fiction, something pretty new to me.   

The story is set in a museum exhibiting Greek and Roman statues.  The visitors are a young seeming couple. They are just out for an excursion and have no real knowledge of Greek or Roman art but they do make some very interesting remarks on why the sculpture filled in details of the face of the man on a statue of a couple and left the face of the woman unfinished.   The discussion that follows is a brilliant reconstruction of what must have been a long series of conversations
between the couple now  reified in the statues.  The woman and the man have differing opinions as to why the woman's face is not complete.   They read the plaque on the statue and it says the woman's details are not filled in perhaps because she died before the statue was completed.  The woman says it was because the woman in the statue did not matter, there was no need to immortalize her.  The man understands the sadness this produces in his partner and tries to lighten her mood, partially from kindness and partially to make her easier to deal with later.  There is an awful lot in this short work.  I really liked it when the man says he loves the sound his S L R camera makes. 

One of the themes of this story is seeing ourselves in the images we have of others, of how our perceptions of others is shaped by how we see ourselves.  This same theme comes out strongly in Ryan's wonderful "Cold Cuts".

"Cold Cuts" appeared in Necessary Fiction (I will include a link to the story at the end of the post) is a bit longer than the first story so I think it passes out of the category of flash fiction.  There are really only two characters in this story.  The narrator is a late thirty early forty years old seeming woman who is with her daughter Jules.  When the mother looks at her daughter she cannot believe how much she looks like the mother thinks she once did.   "It is my adolescence mirrored back at me".  She also flashes to her late mother when she hears a woman speaking in the accent of someone from Kerry and she hears her own voice and patterns of speech in her mother.  The narrator tells us about the men in her life.  She speaks in a kind of detached way and more or less acknowledges the failures of her relationships are largely her fault.  

I liked it a lot when the narrator thinks back to the time she worked in a a deli in the days when a deli was an exotic place.

In writing about very short works of fiction you have to walk the line between saying enough to explain why you admire the story and giving away to much of the story.

I think both "Cold Cuts" and "Reclining Women, Unfinished Face" are very good stories packing a great deal in a small work.  The dialogues ring very true.  I really like the conversations in the second story as in them we can reconstruct the relationship of  the man and woman and if one pushes it the relationship of the gaze upon men versus women and of now upon the past that the gazers only have the most minimal knowledge concerning.  

From her official biography

Eimear Ryan was born in 1986 in Co Tipperary. She studied journalism at Dublin City University and has lived in Boston and New York, where she spent a year as an intern in publishing. Her short fiction has been published in The Sunday Tribune and The Stinging Fly,and is forthcoming inA Modest Review. She was the winner of the Hennessy Award for First Fiction 2008 and was shortlisted in the inaugural RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition. She blogs at

If you go to her blog you will find links to these two stories and several others.

I enjoyed these beautifully written stories enough to read each one several times and hope to read a lot more of the work of Eimear Ryan.

I am seeking suggestions for Emerging Irish Women writers. 

Mel u


Group 8 said...

Nice post, Mel. SHe's a VG writer. Have you come across Valerie Sirr?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mention, Nuala. I like Eimear's work a lot too.