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, March 22, 2013

Louise Phillips -Two Short Stories

"Hello" (2011, 4 pages)
"Role Play" (2012, 2 pages)

March 1 to March 31

Louise Phillips

You are invited to participate in ISSM3.  Please contact me if you are interested.

I am very happy to be able to tell my readers about two wonderful short stories by Louise Phillips.  I find her career path as a writer very inspiring so I want to begin where I normally end a post, with her author bio.

Author Bio (from her webpage)

Louise Phillips returned to writing after a 20 year gap spent raising her family, managing a successful family business, and working in banking. Quickly selected by Dermot Bolger as an emerging talent, Louise went on to win the 2009 Jonathan Swift Award and in 2011 she was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice Platform, as well as being short-listed for Bridport UK Prize, the Molly Keane Memorial Award, and the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition. In 2012 Louise was awarded an Arts bursary for literature from South County Dublin Arts. Louise's psychological crime novel, Red Ribbons, is published by Hachette Books Ireland, and has been shortlisted for the Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year 2012. Her second novel, The Doll's House, will be published in 2013. Other publishing credits include many literary journals and anthologies, including New Island's County Lines.


"Soon a priest stood above my bed mumbling prayers for my forgiveness, he no more than a child himself.  I can still see the holes that adolescence left in his pimpled skin, his disposition awkward, afraid even. I must have looked quite mad to him, the white gown I wore covered in blood and sweat, and devoid of any shape other than the large protruding bump. It was after he left they put my feet in stirrups, the desire to push becoming so strong that I screamed from the very core of my existence. Sister Bernadette, the one with the moustache, gave me a look that said I disgusted her. She rammed the gag into my mouth. I no longer cared if Jesus stared."

"'Hello" was a winner in the Irish Writers' Centre Lonely Voice Platform (You can read it online here.)   In just a few powerful pages it tells the story of forty years in the life of a woman and deals with several of what I am seeing as the basic themes of the Irish Short Story.  I will tell enough of the plot so you can relate to my remarks and I strongly urge you to read this wonderful work.  It will repay many times over the few minutes it will take you to read it.  There was a time in Ireland when having a child out of wedlock was the deepest of shames, not only on the woman but her whole family, especially her father.   The woman was looked upon as little better than a street walker, a disgusting figure for all those in the righteous world.  The story opens as the woman is giving birth to a child.  She looks up and sees crucifixes on the wall and the sister of mercy looks on her with great contempt.  Forty years ago when this happened, I think we are not far from the time where women who had sex outside of marriage could be placed in mental hospitals for indefinite confinement where men just had to say a Rosary.  We see the contempt the girl's father has for her and the vicious way he speaks to her when he learns she is pregnant outside of marriage.  Her mother tells her to talk to him.  When she goes upstairs to do so, she hears him for the first time ever crying and there is no conversation.  I do not want to give up much of the plot of this story.  One of the things one sees in the Irish short story, and according to Occasion of Sin - Sex and Society in Modern Ireland by Diarmand Ferriter (one of my basic reference works for ISSM3) is extreme emotional reticence accompanied by deep feelings of guilt over sins which can result in violence toward others or the self when the feelings become to strong to control.  

"Hello" does show several of the themes I am talking about this month.  We have the emotionally if not physically missing father, the replacement of the authority of the father with that of the church, a church which is the legacy of colonialism, which in turn weakens and emasculates the father and turns control over the family to the mother and the priests.  We see a woman living with a dark secret the rest of her life.  There are lots of secrets in the world of the Irish short story.

"Role Play"

"Role Play" is a very good quite brief short story about sexual rituals, power, letting go, and the need for release.  As I read the story, and yes I know this dates me, I could not help but imagine Catherine Deneuve as the lead female character.  The story takes place in an a very expensive suite in the Saint Paul Hotel in London.

A woman enters the hotel suite, we know the man is very affluent by the setting.  As always the woman arrives between ten and twenty minutes late. The man says, as he always does, "You are late, slut".  He is flush from alcohol.

His eyes are narrow and piercing.  The interaction is very scripted very ritualized. This is such a short work I do not want to explicate the plot too much.  

It is a marvelous work about power, about money (why could this story not play out in a much cheaper hotel?), we wonder if the woman is a prostitute or mistress or even a wife?

It is about the need for release of the powerful.   I have obtained some knowledge over the years which lets me know the most men who would seek out this kind of treatment from a woman are powerful men, as the man in this story is, they seek a respite from power and forgiveness for the cruelty they wield in daily life.

"Hello" can be read here.

I hope to read both Red Ribbons and more short fiction by Louise Phillips soon.  

She has also kindly agreed to do a Q and A Session for Irish Short Story Month so please look for that soon.

You can learn more about Red Ribbons here

Mel u

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