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

Monday, July 2, 2012

The West: Stories From Ireland by Eddie Stack

The West:  Stories From Ireland by Eddie Stack (2011)

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

Eddie Stack

Eddie Stack, from County Clare in Ireland, is the author of two highly regarded collections of short stories, The West:  Stories From Ireland and Out of the Blue.  I think and hope Stack will not object if I say, as have others who have posted on his work, that he is a superb member of the tradition of the Irish Story tellers.   His stories are about ordinary people from small towns and big cities, most of them are set in Ireland but not all.   The people in his stories love Ireland, drinking, each other (some of the time), hanging out with their mates in pub while they struggle to make a living in a place where this is not always easy.

Eddie Stack
My custom in posting on collections of short stories is to read all the stories and post on around half of them.   I try to look at two or three stories in some detail to give potential readers or buyer so the collection an idea as to whether or not the work might interest them.   I also think this shows more respect to the artist than simply issuing broad generalizations about the collection.  Upon concluding my postings on the stories I will normally make some over all remarks.   I am positive on all of the collections of short stories I post on for the simple reason that I will not finish a collection if I do not like the opening stories.  One of my purposes in  having my blog is to clarify my understanding of the works  I am posting on and help cement them in my memory and why would I do that with a story or longer work I do not like?   

"Time Passes" 

"Time Passes" is narrated in a very interesting way, not in the first person or the third but the speaker is sort of a collective group of people living in small town Ireland.   Their most important actvity seems to be waiting for the dole office to open.   The time is just before Christmas and every one is waiting for the "boys" to come back from London for their big holiday back home.   They work all year just do they can come home for this holiday, spend some time with the folks, flash some cash and head for the pubs to catch up on all the gossip.   Their return is the biggest yearly event in the community, a community with few opportunities for young people.     The story does a wonderful job in letting us see the excitement the return generates and the emptiness it masks.   The community is on an island as all of the boys arrive on a boat and everybody with somebody coming (it means money for them) is there at the dock to meet them.   The story is about what happens as the holiday plays out, it seem to last a month of so maybe.   At first the boys are at home then they get bored.   The sad thing is when the boat comes in there are always men missing, men who did not come home this year.  Maybe he will return next year or maybe he is in a new life in London.   I can fully relate to this story.   Millions of people from the Philippines work off shore, normally coming home for one to three months every two years.  When they come it is very big for the family and the men.   "Time Passes" is a very good, very human story that I really enjoyed reading.   It is set in Ireland but the experience it speaks to is universal.

"The Warrior Carty"

"The Warrior Carty" is set in a small town in the west of Ireland but there are forgotten warriors all over the world, men used by their country (or by a colonizer) when needed then forgotten or even laughed at because of the mental trauma the war left them with.  It is a universal story about the universal forgotten soldier.

"The Warrior Carty" is a very interesting story about a man who came back from a war most young people do not even know about.   We meant the warrior, as he is called sort of behind his back as he is not a man you want mad at you,  telling the bartender that Ireland has gone to the dogs, the country is ruined.   To make it all worse in the warrior's mind, the politicians and others who ruined the country "never fired a shot in their lives".   Bridgey likes his whiskey (he we are in Ireland!)   There is only one pub in town that will serve the warrior as he does have a tendency to wipe up the bar floor with anyone one who makes him mad.   What happened to him was that he fought in The War for Independence and the Cival War and then he went outside of the country and got shell shocked in a foreign war.   There is a fair coming and the central event of the fair is to the warrior lift a cart wheel that weighs at least as much as he does.   His act was the making or breaking of the fair.   This year he has retired and the crowd turns against him, he also stopped walking the town and giving out Christmas greetings.   He is kind of like a walking Hunch Back of Nortre Dame.   "The Warrior Carty" is an excellent very pleasant to read short story that gives us a good view of small town Irish life.   There are some decent people, some half way and some who should ashamed of themselves.


"Derramore" is one of Eddie Stack's most famous stories.   There is an excellent quote on Stack's webpage, with which I totally agree, that sums up why this story is so loved:

Stephen Windwalker of Kindle Nation wrote this about   "Derramore":

Let me just say this: I've read dozens of novels and stories that found some way to pay homage to James Joyce over the years, but frankly there have been few of them that convinced me the had any real claim on the reference. 
Not so with "Derramore." Turbo Tracy's forgeries may not involve the uncreated conscience of his race, but this story, more than any that I've read in decades, put me in touch again with the best of Dubliners and some of the vignettes of Portrait and Ulysses.

What is so great about this story is seeing the impact of the return on one Turbo Tracy, man of all scams and schemes.   His arrival serves to bring the small town to life.   What is most enjoyable to me in this wonderful story is how a woman, without a lot of high status degrees or erudition behinds her totally gets Molly Bloom.   I loved it when she declared that she was Molly Bloom and I thought she just might understand Ulysses better than legions of PhDs.


"Limbo" is set in a classroom in a monastery in the west of Ireland where a priest, a bit emotionally unstable with not a little bitterness about the state of Ireland and the educational attainments of its young, is lording it over a group of young boys who would for sure rather be somewhere else.   The story, told in the very well done first person by one of the school boys, begins with a tirade by the priest:  "The trouble with ye is that ye don't want to learn," he fumed, "Now it isn't the lack of brains that's effectin ye..and I'm saying it in plain English so that ye'll understand have brains alright...but ye're as Lazy as Sin."  Much of the story is a recreation of the school methods of the priest and I am guessing he does not have an M. A. in child development or educational theory.   Brother Mahon does seem to have some sort of pill addiction, sometimes he would be so hyped up he would jump over desks three at a time and once in a while he was even great fun and a very good teacher  telling the boys wonderful stories about the world.  I found "Limbo" very interesting and helped me understand more about the consequences off emigration when Brother Mahon talked of how it was really a waste of time to educate most of the boys (he had his pets) as they would just end up leaving the country one day.  This is a wonderful, very fun to read, very cinematic story.

There are four other works in The West:  Stories From Ireland.  All of them were great fun to read, taught me more about life in Ireland but they can be understood and loved by anyone who likes stories about real people, stories that respect their readers as those of Stack do.

I totally endorse this collection to all.

Author Bio

Eddie Stack has received several accolades for his fiction, including an American Small Press of the Year Award, and a Top 100 Irish American Award. Recognised as an outstanding short story writer, he is the author of four books —The West; Out of the Blue; HEADS and Simple Twist of Fate.

west-sml           blue-sml           heads-sm           simple-twst-sm

His work has appeared in literary reviews and anthologies worldwide, includingFiction, Confrontation, Whispers & Shouts, Southwords and Criterion; State of the Art: Stories from New Irish Writers; Irish Christmas Stories, The Clare Anthology andFiction in the Classroom.

A natural storyteller, Eddie has recorded spoken word versions of his work, with music by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill. In 2010, he integrated spoken word and printed work with art, music and song to produce an iPhone app of The West; this was the first iPhone app of Irish fiction.

You can read several samples of Eddie Stack's work on his very well done web page .

To me one of the mark's of a self-confident and generous author is the willingness to let people sample his work.   Stack has asked me to mention that he is willing to provide copies of his book to book bloggers interested in posting on his work.  (His contact information in on his web page.)

I am very happy to announce that Eddie Stack is allowing me to post four of the stories from this collection on The Reading Life.   They will begin appearing very soon.

Stack is a great story teller and artist.   I look forward to reading more of his work.

Mel u

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