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

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Delta" by Barbara Tarrant- With a Q and A

"Delta" by Barbara Tarrant  (2012, 5 pages)

Year III
March 1 to March 31

Barbara Tarrant -Dublin

Hennessy New Irish Award Winner 2012

First Fiction

Today I am happy to be able to share with my readers a story by Barbara Tarrant (Dublin).   She won the 2012 Hennessy New Irish Writer Award for First Fiction.   The award is in its 41st year and has been won by some of Ireland's greatest contemporary writers including  Dermot Bolger, Joesph  O’Connor, Colum McCann, Hugo Hamilton and Patrick McCabe.  Over the years, the judges have included Roddy Doyle, Fay Weldon, Neil Jordan, Molly Keane, Elizabeth Bowen, Brian Friel and Clare Boylan, lending the event the credibility associated with these individual writers status and caliber.  The story for which she won "Baby" is not, as far as I know,online anywhere but she does have an amazing story "Delta" that we are able to read (I will include a link at the close of my post).

"Delta" is the story of Grace, a new first time mother and the ravages to her psyche brought on by the unceasing caused by colic crying of her baby Delta.  There is a terrible frustration and pain caused in the soul of a mother when her baby will not stop crying.  Made much worse by her at times resentment of the baby who can seem almost a malevolent force of nature sent to torture you.  (The medical name for this condition is  "post natal depression".) Part of the very real agony this brings is sleep deprivation.   The story takes place on Delta's seventh month birthday.

Grace is at a point brought about by sheer exhaustion where the slightest effort is almost more than she can make herself do.   At her part time job as a hardware store cashier she always wonders what sort of sleep the store customers had the night before.   Grace keeps getting worse and worse, she know she is on a dangerous downhill spiral.   Her husband left her to move to California.  She calls her mother and begs her to come over-she says she is busy.  To add to the pain, in a really poignant scene, the mother tells her her father cannot come over as he is sleeping but Grace hears him talking in the background.   

The imagery and prose of Tarrant totally bring this experience to life for us.  I will quote a bit from her story in order to convey a feel for the power and beauty of her prose.     

"From day one, Delta cried with savage frequency. The first six weeks was okay because Grace expected sleepless nights, the adrenaline kept her going, that and the novelty of a new baby. She had let the noise wash over her like sheets of rain and even been grudgingly impressed by its stubborn monotony and Delta's ability to sustain it for hours on end. Grace couldn't think straight against the background of furious, rhythmic, animal complaint; it vibrated through her, turning her into some kind of instrument for the conduction of sound; a sort of tuning fork, dehumanising her."

The mother is supposed to be at work at 1000am, she looks at the clock and is shocked to see it is 1130.

The ending of the story is amazing.   I think I would trivialize its power and depth by explicating it and  I urge you strongly to read this story yourself.

I greatly look forward to reading more of the work of Tarrant and I hope in the not too distant future to be able to post on a collection of her short stories.   

Bio Data (supplied by author)

I am a third generation Dublin woman and live and work here. I am a graduate of Trinity College Creative Writing MPhil and last year won the First Fiction Hennessy award for 'Baby'. My work has have been broadcast on RTE radio. I read lots of poetry and short story's and volunteer with Fighting Words, a project run by Roddy Doyle to foster children's creative writing skills.  

A Short Q and A with Barbara Tarrant

1.  I sometimes wonder why such a disproportionate amount of literature of the world, that is regarded as great, is written in the colder temperate zones rather than in the tropics. How big a factor do you think the Irish weather is in shaping the literary output of its writers? I cannot imagine The Brothers Karamazov being written on a tropical island, for example.

 probably something to do with the endless winters and disappointing summers, melancholy gets into the blood.

2.   Who do you regard as the first modern Irish Short story writer?

 Mary Lavin

3.   Why have the Irish produced such a disproportionate to their population number of great writers?

 In our native language we were great oral story tellers, There is very little record of this element ( I think William Carlton was the first to record them) of our heritage. When the British tried to erase our native tongue, it was more difficult to destroy the psyche of a true storyteller.

4.   (Ok this may seem like a silly question but I pose it anyway-do you believe in Fairies?-this quote from Declan Kiberd sort of explains why I am asking this:
"One 1916 veteran recalled, in old age, his youthful conviction that the rebellion would “put an end to the rule of the fairies in Ireland”. In this it was notably unsuccessful: during the 1920s, a young student named Samuel Beckett reported seeing a fairy-man in the New Square of Trinity College Dublin; and two decades later a Galway woman, when asked by an American anthropologist whether she really believed in the “little people”, replied with terse sophistication: “I do not, sir – but they’re there."

No, I do not.

5.  Do you think the Stories of an Irish RM books and the TV series are accurate accounts of the era?

 The Irish RM was a marvelous television series, I never read the stories. I believe the Irish character (warts and all) is celebrated in this work and if anything the British come out of it a bit red- faced! 

6.  Does the character of the "stage Irishman" live on still in the heavy drinking, violent, on the dole characters one finds in many contemporary Irish novels?

 I'm not sure this is entirely true, I think there is a more three dimensional Approach these days to this rather tired character.

7. Do you think Irish Travellers should be granted the status of a distinct ethnic group and be given special rights to make up for past mistreatment? Are the Travellers to the Irish what the Irish were once to the English?  I became interested in this question partially through reading the short stories of Desmond Hogan.

 the Traveller question is forever on going here. They are a unique group with a rich heritage and should be celebrated and protected.

8.   Where is the best place in Dublin to get fish and chips or the best Irish stew?

.   my local chipper, The Embassy Grill does the best fish and chips in Dublin bar none! As for an Irish stew? The ordinary Irish housewife cooks the best stew.

9.  Ebook or traditional?

 the traditional book in the hand for me!

My great thanks to Barbara Tarrant for  taking the time to share her very interesting thoughts with us.

Mel u

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