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, July 20, 2012

"Embassy" by Desmond Hogan

The Irish Quarter 
 A Celebration of the Irish Short Story

The Reading Life Desmond Hogan Project


Co-hosted by Shauna Gilligan, author of
Happiness Comes From Nowhere

"She raised her head higher and walked the one main street carnivorous street of the village, waiting to be chastised, knowing she never would be openly, defiant if you like, brave."

Some Notes on Future Plans for 
The Desmond Hogan Project

"She remembered drifters she had listened to, Americans speaking their language carefully, scholarly, as if they were in exile from somewhere else invisible yet congruent with the land she lived in; and walkers along the roads at night, zooming in and out of your headlights without looking up, too far from any town to have a real destination. "-From The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

As of now I have access to 37 short stories by Desmond Hogan.  Including today's post, I have now posted on twelve of them.   I consider Hogan a very important writer and I think there is great depth and wisdom in his stories, perhaps a wisdom for those not in fully sunlit worlds.   I intend to post all of the remaining stories, some one at a time and some in groups.   I am treating Hogan's stories as found objects, a way of looking at literature from the long ago.   Even though the stories in Lark's Eggs and Other Stories were not all published originally at the same time I will also on occasion treat the collection as one object, as that is how it is now being presented to the world.    

My Plans for the Next Few Posts

In one post will look at one through the lessons learned in "The Death of an Author" by Roland Barthes.   In another post  what I learned long ago from Northrup Frye as it related to the project.   I will also look at one of the stories in terms of what Susan Sontag says in her landmark essay on sensibilities, "Notes on Camp" and lastly I will be looking at one of the stories to see how it accords with Edmund White's brilliant essay, "Writing Gay".    I think there is something also to be learned about the stories from Declan Kiberd's chapter on Oscar Wilde in Inventing Ireland.   In doing this I will not be at all making any conjectures about the author, I will just be facing the clear homosexuality present in many of the stories.   I think this is all tied in with Travellers, Teddy-boys, male models, and other of the things we have seen in the stories.  Some of my posts on the stories will be long, some short, it is more a reflection of my mental state at the time I write them than my reaction to the works.  Obviously I see the stories as great texts or I would not be spending this much time on them.   My main purpose  is to increase my understanding of these works.   


"People were jealous of me to"-
"Embassy" (first published in 1989) is the story  of a woman whose life goes in a kind of dismal circle with a kind of pleasant middle.   When we first meet her she is managing a pub that is barely able to stay open with the few customers, old men who like to talk about sick dogs and ships in bottles.   Ships in bottles were important properties in the community and were considered a symbol of a "good clean house".   Sheila's husband had left her a few months ago and her children were all working on the bogs.  In her younger day she had been a great beauty with wild black hair and rich olive toned skin.   She had many male admirers and lots of women and girls jealous of her in her younger days.  She would talk to her customers about these good old days of long ago.   Her own sisters were cruel to her but she kept her head high.   She liked to roam the fields with farmer's sons.  She learns to prefer what the priests call sin to the holy life.   As her life went on one day she tried to choke her husband who had once loved her but had grown tired of her.   She began more erratic in her behavior and in time she is put in a mental hospital.   She gets out and she obtains with some help a job cleaning up at the Swedish embassy in Dublin.    A man attached to the embassy, a widower and a man of significant refinement begins to strike up a friendship with her and asks her out to dinner.   She is now making enough money to afford nice cloths and she still is very striking looking.   The relationship comes to nothing.

This is a sad story about what might have been.   I wondered what sort of person Sheila could have developed into had she lived in a less rigid culture that did not see  sex outside of marriage as a sin and which loved rather than feared wild beauty.   It is about being trapped.   It is a beautiful hauntingly story to which one who knows she is less than she might be because of her fears of what society will think of her can directly relate.  

Mel u

1 comment:

shaunag said...

You capture the essence of this story very well, Mel. It is one of my favourites. Her beauty is almost mythical.