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

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

George Moore: Three Great Stories from The Untilled Field

The Irish Quarter-March 11 to July 1
A Celebration of the Irish Short Story

A Few Days with George Moore
"The Exile" and "Julia Cahill's Curse"

Stories covered in this post
"A Playhouse in the Waste"
"The Wedding Gown" 
"The Clerk's Quest"

Please consider joining us for The Irish Quarter,  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.

have decided to change the name of this event from Irish Short Story Week to The Irish Quarter.   A lot of the stories have been about emigration and most emigrants first lived in an Irish Quarter, whether they landed in Boston or Buenos Aries.  The event is also about a quarter of a year long.  Also calling it Irish Short Story Week as causing some potential participants to feel they did not have time to join us. 

"A Playhouse in The Waste" is the seventh short story from George Moore's 1903 collection of interrelated short stories, The Untilled Field, which I have so far read.   I really am amazed how great the stories I have read so far from this collection really are.    Moore was very much a self conscious artist, deeply schooled in the visual arts and French literature.   He was born into massive money and was able to devote his entire life to self-cultivation with a bit of serious dissipation thrown in.   James Joyce acknowledged him as an influence and it is easy to see it in The Dubliners.  I am pretty close to adding George Moore to my list of world's greatest short stories.   In a quick comparison, I am also currently reading through the short stories of Edith Somerville and Violet Martin in Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. and the are good fun to read stories but they seem a bit juvenile next to the work of Moore.   

As "A Playhouse in the Waste" opens the narrator is traveling on a muddy poor excuse for a road in one of the poorest parishes in Ireland.   He is being taken about by a driver, in a horse carriage who turns out to be an incredible talker with a deep insight into life and Ireland.   Everywhere they go they see evidence of terrible poverty, almost all of the houses are mud huts.  When you go inside, there is a good chance someone will be laying in the corner dying.   Lots of places are just deserted.   The tenants have go to America and the landlords can find no one to take their place.   He does notice that there are some roads built through the bogs, going no where, that seem ti just stop for no reason.  He asks the driver what to make of this and he is told these are relief projects, make work jobs.   He then is told the attitude of many government officers is that it is just cheaper to let the people leave the country.   The man comes up with the idea of building a playhouse out in the wastes and training the local people to be actors on the idea that this might produce revenue when people come to the show.   Much of the rest of this simply marvelous story is spent debating the validity of this idea.   It is just a flat out great story.   So far I like "Lady Cahill's Curse" best but this is a close second.  

"The Wedding Gown" is a very entertaining story.  In the hands of a lesser writer the story of an old woman driven mad by loneliness and her devoted granddaughter would be a cliche, in the hands of Moore it is a joy to read.   It is also about family ties and lets us see  how people dealt with mental illness in the era of the story.   Much of the fun of this story is in the plot so I will leave it untold.  

"The Clerk's Quest" sort of reminded me of "Alfred Nabbs" in that it is about a man who stifles all of his emotions and ambitions and lives for a simple job, in his case that of a bank clerk.   He works for the same firm for thirty years, never late, never asks for a day off and never has a personal life to talk about.  Then one day among the checks he is processing is one which smells of an intoxicating perfume.   He learns who the woman is and begins to fantasize about her.   He spends a lot of his life time savings sending her jewelry along with very demure love letters.   She returns the gifts and tells him if he persists she will complain to his employer.    He continues on and is warned by his employer and at last is fired.   The ending is just so sad.  I will not tell it all but it is very well done and another proof of what a great writer George Moore really is.


Suko said...

I'm glad you changed the name for this. It fits perfectly, and the subtitle is also excellent.

These stories all sound great. The last one about the bank clerk sounds like a must-read. Are you tallying all the stories you are reading? So many!

Mel u said...

Yes thanks for your input on the name-the George Moore stories all are all first rate. I have March posts all listed but not april yet. getting behind on listing all the short stories I have read also. got to work on that soon