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 3, 2012

"News For The Church" by Frank O'Connor

"News For the Church" by Frank O'Connor (1958, 11 pages)

Irish Short Story Week
March 11 to May 1

April 1 to April 6

Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two, March 12 to March 31.   All you need do is post on one short story by an Irish author and send me a comment or and email and I will include it in the master post at the end of the challenge.  

I listened to Galway Bay F.M. 95.8 Radio, playing tradition Irish music while writing this post.   I recommend it if you like background music with your Irish Short Stories.    

James Joyce called Frank O'Connor "The Chekhov of Ireland".   Born as Michael O'Donovan in 1903 in Cork City, Ireland, Frank O'Connor was a very prolific writer with about 150 works to his credit.   I think it is for his short stories that he is most loved now.   

O'Connor in 1918 joined the Irish Republican Army, during the Irish War for Independence.  At the end of the war he was imprisoned by the new government for about a year because of his opposition to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 that ended the war.   

After getting out of prison, O'Connors worked as a librarian, teacher and was named as a director of the famous Abbey Theater founded  by William Butler Yeats.   In 1950 he moved to the USA to accept a teaching position.   He began to publish short stories in The New Yorker to great acclaim.   He died in 1966, he had three children and an ex-wife.   The most prestigious prize in the world for Short Stories is the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award for a collection of works by one author.   It is hosted in 

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Frank O'Connor is the author of the only book on short stories worth reading, The Lonely Voice:  A Study in the Short Story (1962).   I have read parts of it numerous times.   There are some maddening things in the book, O'Connor was a man of strong opinions from a time before "political correctness" took over in the universities and some of the things in the book that he says about Gays, Jews, and Women will put people off but I do not think he meant anything malicious by them.   I think a very good course in the short story could be devised by reading all the public domain short stories mentioned by O'Connor with him as our first look.   (There is more on The Lonely Voice in my post on it.   If you love the short story, you will love it more after you read this book, or at least I did).

I posted earlier during Irish Short Story week on two of the short stories of Frank O'Connor, "Guests of the Nation" and "The Majesty of the Law".   I did a search of the Kindle edition of The Best of Frank O'Connor selected and introduced by Julius Barnes on the term "priest" and got over 100 results.   

"News from the Church" gives us an intimate look at what goes on inside a confessional when a nineteen year old girl confesses she has had sex with a man she barely knew, as seen from the point of view of a sixty year old priest.   The priest had a reputation as a liberal easy confessor, often to take to task by the other priests as to easy.   The priest is not a perfect man.   He hates the English, the Irish government and the middle class.

"The last priest that heard my
confession, left the church the next day"-Carmella
As the woman enters the confessional he asks her when her last confession was and she tells him last week.   He wonders why such a young woman would feel she had to confess so often.   He asks her what her sins are since her last confession and he lectures her when she confesses to bad language and he gives her some good advise when she tells him she got drunk.   He tells her a bit of a drink is OK, he likes it himself but to much can cloud the judgment.  Then he is shocked when he says "what else" and he says "I had carnal intercourse with a man, father".  Here is the ensuing conversation.

"You what?"  he cried incredulously.  You had carnal intercourse with a man?  At your age?   

"I know", she said with a look of distress. "It's awful".

"It is awful" he replied slowly and solemnly, "And how often did it take place?"

The priest cannot get over his shock.   He is very offended that this strange to him woman has come in to his confessional and put the burden of thinking about this on him.    He begins to go out of his way to humiliate the woman.  He makes her give him a detailed description of exactly what she and the man did, he is himself a virgin.   The priest does all he can think of to degrade the woman and destroy her self respect.   

There is little good to be said about the priest in this story.   As the story ends the priest sees  the young woman walking out with her head held low and he gets an ugly moment of pleasure from it.   I wondered what the woman thought and how many other people the priest had abused while hiding behind his collar.   

The next story I will post on for The Stories about Priests Mini-Event will be "The Priest" by Colum Toiban.

Mel u


Suko said...

He doesn't sound like a "priestly" priest.

I just posted about Edna O'Brien--do you have a Mister Linky?

Mel u said...

Suko, it as if O'Connor knew of the terrible scandals about priests that are now having a very effect now

Sorry no mr linky

Also there would never have been this event if not for your suggestiion two years ago.