"The Bon Bon" (2005)
"The Match" (2002)
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
The readership on my Hogan posts has been pretty high. A lot of the readers are from Ireland but I have had visitors to this post from the fanciest parts of Paris, to remote islands in the Philippines, Harvard University and Mongolia.
As of now I have access to 37 short stories by Desmond Hogan. Including today's post, I have posted on 18 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. (Treating some of the stories one at a time and some in groups is notg a value judgement.) In this post I will be posting mostly for those already into the work of Hogan and to help me bring more to the surface my understanding of these stories. My posts on these stories will be short, but don't worry I will make it up later!
"Ties" is a very interesting story. It "verifies" my earlier claim that Hogan belongs in the literature of disharmony and cruelty. I will once again quote from the landmark essay of Susan Sontag, "Notes on Sensibilities" (I found it very interesting that Gilligan refers to Sontag in her brilliant introductory post on Hogan)
"For instance, there is the kind of seriousness whose trademark is anguish, cruelty, derangement. . Think of Bosch, Sade, Rimbaud, Jarry, Kafka, Artaud, think of most of the important works of art of the 20th century, that is, art whose goal is not that of creating harmonies but of overstraining the medium and introducing more and more violent, and unresolvable, subject-matter. . . . Clearly, different standards apply here than to traditional high culture. Something is good not because it is achieved, but because another kind of truth about the human situation, another experience of what it is to be human - in short, another valid sensibility -- is being revealed."
There is a lot going on in "Ties". We meet the narrator's father and their are some nice memories of a man who worked in the shop of his father, Patsy Fogarthy. As I read through this story I am getting those feeling that we are to see a semi at least sexual bond between the father and Patsy. We are shared some pleasant childhood memories then we learn of what caused Patsy to be put in a mental hospital. It involved him having anal sex with a young man. The point of this episode, it is not put at all in "gentile" terms, is to bring about a feeling of anguish, to see cruelty in the seemingly avuncular Patsy.
"Bon Ton" also starts with remembered moments of the narrator's father. Part of the "pattern" of a Hogan story is to start the narration with common place things, expand from their to references to obscure aspects of history and then slam the reader with a reference to a sex act unacceptable to most people. In the cultural context of Ireland, keep in mind homosexuality was criminal until 1993. The current sex laws of Ireland can be found here. Unless I am missing something it appears to be legal to have lesbian relations with a five-teen year old female but males are not legal for gay anal sex until 17. The law prohibits intercourse outside of marriage with females under 17 but seems to permit oral sex with 15 year old individuals of either sex. Of course legal and socially acceptable are two very different things and I cannot imagine many parents being happy when their 16 year old daughter presents the family with her 45 year old lesbian partner. I think one has to understand the once sexually repressive atmosphere of Ireland to see how shocking these stories are in some cases. There are also very interesting references to Irish Travellers in this story. I hope to explore this topic in more detail in another post.
"The Match" makes use of the standard Hogan motifs. It begins with two Traveller boys asking the narrator to tell them the story of Mary, "Queen of Scots" and her marriage to Lord Henry Darnley, who the narrator says was a bisexual who ended up being strangled in the streets of Edinburgh wearing only his nightgown. Mary was beloved by the poor. She would give alms to beggars and when she fled she told those she met she was as poor as the poorest. She can also be seen as an "anti-main stream" history figure. She is, I think, one of the top figures in the Travellers Iconography. The narrator kind of rambles on with lots of interesting stories related to the experiences of Travellers. Others tells stories also. There is much more in this story but it fits the pattern well of a Hogan story.