30 Under 30: A Selection of Short Stories by Thirty Young Irish Writers edited by Elizabeth Reapy with a foreword by John Walsh
The Irish Quarter
"Now John was alone in life, something he never anticipated and never wanted. But what could he do now?"
There are thirty stories in 30 Under Thirty: A Selection of Short Stories by Thirty Young Irish Writers. So far I have posted on nine of them. (I totally endorse purchase of this very fairly priced collection and will provide a publisher's link at the end of this post.) There is also a very interesting introduction by the editor Elizabeth Reapy (I have posted on her very well done short story, "Statues") and a foreword by John Walsh.. Agreeing with John Walsh, I think this book could well be a collector's item one day.
Posting on collections of short stories that include the works of many different authors presents a big challenge, to me at least. I do not personally care for reviews or posts on short story collections that simply have one or two lines on a few of the stories and then gush over the collection as a whole with standard book review quotes. These could in fact easily be written without reading much of the collection and to me it is like going on about a forest without realizing it is made up of trees. Because of the high quality of the stories and the collections ability to acquaint me with contemporary Irish short stories, I now plan to post individually on all of the stories in the collection.
Upon completion of this project, I will list my top five stories.
"A Falling Star" by Kealan McGuninness is an excellent work fully in accord with the Frank O'Connor model of a short story. It centers on a lonely man, his wife and son are both dead, he may not belong to any of the marginalized voiceless social groups that O'Connor talks about in The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story but he really is just another voiceless person, the story for sure centers on loneliness as O'Connor says the best short stories do, we meet a character, he is put into a situation that changes his life and he learns something from it. Just because Frank O'Connor said this is how a good short story should be done does not make it true but he did write the only book worth reading, so far, on the short story.
John, a widower whose son recently died, is trying to adjust to his life alone. He never saw this coming and nothing prepared him for it. He has one thing to fall back on, his son got him into star gazing and he has joined a club. He develops a strong interest in astronomy and it helps keep him going. We do not know what kind of work John did, what his education was but we sense he was a hard working man without a fancy job. He really looks forward to the nights the club goes star gazing and is very sad when clouds ruin the evening. He meets a man at the group, about his age who says he has just moved to the area and is out of work and John feels sympathy for him.
I will stop my telling of the story now as it would spoil a perfectly structured story. The ending is profoundly sad and was one of the last things John needed to have happen to him. I think Frank O'Connor, Sean O'Faolin and Liam O'Flaherty would all have liked this story. I know I did.
Author Data (from 30 Under 30)
Kealan McGuninness, 23, was born in Co. Donegal and studied English at University College Dublin and Trinity. He currently lives and works in Dublin and writes in his spare time. He has published stories in several journals.