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

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Samhain" by Alice Walsh

"Samhain" by Alice Walsh (2011, 3 pages)

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

Alice Walsh

"Everyone wears a mask: twins in the happy and sad masks of theatre faces peer out from black hooded grim reaper cloaks, a boy dressed as an owl turns his head full around, a moustachioed jester pilfers ha’pennies where he will. All souls. A skeleton and a witch pull me apart."-Alice Walsh 

Please consider joining us for this event.     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.

Alice Walsh is the tenth writer to be featured in my series of posts on Emerging Irish Women Writers.  "Samhain", the title of her great story refers to a Gaelic harvest festival normally held on October 31.  

"Samhain" is a very opened story in which the reader needs to be an active participator in developing their view of the story.   There are really only two characters in this wonderful story, a man named Abelard, who makes guitars  and also fancies himself a photographer, one who likes to "shoot" people and the narrator.  

As the story opens we learn that a woman has been killed.    The narrator of the story has been laying on the floor of the apartment she seems to have shared with the victim for the last seven days playing the same song over and over on an endless loop.    

The woman seems to spend most of her time thinking about Abelard.  I loved these lines:

Abelard likes cats and I like dogs. Or is it the other way around? I like cats and how they look appalled by everything we do, while they meditate smugly on sunshine lit steps. I have a cat called Emerson; he sits curled up in my mind purring self-reliance.

I wrote a poem today it’s called The Flower Eaters. It goes like this:

They eat flowers – 

Tearing petals Limb from Limb

Decapitating Daisies
They have no mind for beauty
How can you not like a cat named Emerson that purrs self reliance?  Let us take a quick look at the poem.    It is meant to to expose the pretensions of the narrator or it is meant as an attack on those who do not appreciate beauty.   Walsh has the artistry to make it both, I think.   

The title of the story is meant to invoke the fall harvest season and Walsh packs a huge amount in these sensuous words

The light of the full harvest moon falls through the open arms of the apple tree outside my window. I can smell the windfall rotting upon the damp earth. The moonshine pours upon my forehead transfixing my mind and telling me things I don’t need to know. Eventually the sun births itself from the earth and I think this must be Sunday.

In this passage we go back to older times, maybe when another Abelard was the central character in a very different love story.

I do not want to to tell to much of this  story but when the narrator tells us that Abelard does not want to shoot her in the apartment I knew what she meant but I could not help but be forced to think of another kind of shooting and wonder if Abelard was dangerous.   We never learn about what has happened to the woman whose death we learn of in the opening paragraph of the story.

Walsh has written a great story with many wonderful turns of phrase.   It is open to numerous readings and also can just be seen as a marvelous literary object which will in the end not allow us to trap it with a meaning.

I will greatly look forward to reading more by Walsh.  

You can read this story in issue ten of wordlegs.

Here is her official biography

There is now (note added May 14, 2012) an excellent podcast of this story where you can listen to the author read the story.  

Alice Walsh was born in London in 1984 to Irish parents and grew up in Waterford in the South East of Ireland, she now lives and works in Dublin. Her short story Samhain and flash fiction piece The Mountain Had Always Been There have previously been published in the Winter '10 and Winter '11 issues of wordlegs. Her short storyCut You Down Like An Old Oak Tree was short listed for the International Fish Publishing Short Story Contest 2011/2012, while last year she made the long-list for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year 2011 Award. Her short stories Downaround and What We Talk About When We Don't Talk About Love feature in the wordlegs presents: 30 Under 30 ebook. She is currently working on her first novel. 

Mel u

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