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, April 15, 2013

No Paradiso by William Wall

No Paradiso by William Wall

March 1 to April 21
No Paradiso (A Collection of Short Stories)

William Wall
Author Bio

Born in Cork 1955 | Grew up in the coastal village of Whitegate | Educated at University College Cork | Degree in Philosophy & English | Married | Two sons

William Wall has won the Virginia Faulkner Award, The Sean O’Faoláin Prize, several Writer’s Week prizes and The Patrick Kavanagh Award.

He was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He was shortlisted for the Young Minds Book Award, the Irish Book Awards, the Raymond Carver Award, the Hennessy Award and numerous others. He has received Irish Arts Council Bursaries, travel grants from Culture Ireland and translations of his books have been funded by Ireland Literature Exchange.

He is not a member of Aosdána – if you’re wondering why, please read Riding Against The Lizard.pdf. His work has been translated into many languages, including Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Latvian, Serbian and Catalan. He has a particular interest in Italy and has read at several festivals there including the Tratti Festival at Faenza, the Festival Internazionale di Poesia di Genova and at the Pordenone Legge festival near Venice. He has translated from Italian. William Wall was an Irish delegate to the European Writers’ Parliament in Istanbul 2010. In March 2010 he was Writer in Residence at The Princess Grace Irish Library, Monaco. He was a 2009 Fellow of The Liguria Centre for the Arts & Humanities .

A must read-Riding Against the Lizard-on the implication of government funds of the arts in Ireland

"In Xanadu"

"It was Dawkins’s lecture. You know. The influence of Beowulf on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or something. Jesus, I hate Anglo-Saxon. Anyway, he started off with the slides again. The whole place in darkness at the flick of a switch. Presto, like. A moment of awed silence. Then – the Ruthwell Cross."

"In Xanadu" is one of the best stories of the excitement of coming of age and college years stories I have ever read.  It centers on the relationship of three college students in Ireland.  Two of them, Kevin and Nuala are a couple and they live with the other man in his college flat.  If you loved everything about your college years (maybe filtered through memories of long lost friends with some things best forgotten) except the classes then this story will help you relive your experiences.  It is also about the power of sex, about turning the mundane into the sacred, about mythologizing your own experiences, about maybe knowing too young that your best times are behind you.  The action in this story is pretty much driven along by Nuala.  Nuala is sexually rather free with herself and does glory in the fact that in a world of college age men she is very much in demand.  The three friends have some very well done adventures though there is a tragic element here also.  "In Xanadu" is a very cinematic story about creating your own pleasure palace and the feeling for a short while in your life that it is all that matters. 

"The William Walls"

"There is, apparently, a sadistic and erotic element in much of his work, most notably (I have not read any of them) in The King Of The Lake, a fable in which a crippled dwarf harnesses two women. He retired from the position of Consul General in 1966 and died in 1989."

"The Williams Walls" is a fascinating piece. I admit I am not quite sure what it is, however.  It basically is an account of people with the name "William Walls" who have lived everywhere but Ireland, though mostly in the USA but with a very interesting account of a Wall who was a policeman in Singapore.  Some of the descriptions  of the William Walls sound perfectly plausible, others seem like products of the imagination but whom am I do say otherwise.  (The author has advised me that all of the people in this story are real.  The policeman in Singapore was the brother of his father.)

Fiction or family history or a mixture of the two, "The William Walls" is really a very succinct historically imaginative account of the Irish diaspora. 

"What a slim boy, O Pyrrha"

"The language they use is pure D.H. Lawrence. Because you are a ghost you are privy also to the man’s actual thoughts and I have given him certain phrases from Catullus and Ovid (we have already established that he is a classicist) which confirm the universality of the terms. But her thoughts are out of bounds because it suits the direction of the narrative to have an inscrutable heroine. She is always other in the story, an object of his thoughts, his memories, his fantasies. And yours."

"What a slim boy, O Pyrrha" is told by a ghost, remembering a charge a British major, who carried the Odes of Horace in his ruck sack, led while wearing only a helmet.  I remember the old English school saying that WWI was won on the field of Eton.  The narrator, a ghost of a man killed in the charge the major lead,  can see into the mind of the major and the author of the story.   He engages in meta-fiction conversations with the purported author.  He talks about how the war will change the major.   He wonders why the major sleeps in the nude in the trenches when all else sleep in their uniforms.   We learn the man is a classicist.  We begin to see that he can deal with the madness of the Somme only by in his mind recasting it as an ancient Greek Battle.  In Greek mythology, Pyrrha was the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandorra.  When Zeus decided to end the Bronze Age with a great flood, Pyrrha and her husband were the only ones to survive.   We are there when the Ghost witnesses a conversation of the major and his own Pyrrha.   There are further structural similarities to this story and Greek myths, both straightforward ones and ironic echos. There are also some interesting class notes in the story.    I found this to be a really well constructed story, I enjoyed the conversations of the Ghost about the story, sometimes that can be annoying but here it was not.   This is a very good story. 

"Dionysus and the Titans"

If the ending of this story does not completely floor you, have your pulse checked at one of those places where they do it for free.  As the story opens Semale, a woman living in Ireland but from the Caribbean has just gotten in a terrible car wreck. (There are a number of people from the Caribbean in the Irish short stories I have read this month, something to ponder...)  She is almost ready to give birth, her baby is born  in the wrecked car with the assistance of the police and she then dies.     Then Zoot her lover shows up, pretty much drunk, takes the baby and basically says "thanks a lot for dumping this on me".   We learn about the life of Zoot, a total slacker living from the dole, a system he has mastered.  Surprisingly he becomes a sort of OK father.  He says he will call the baby Dennis after his own father even though every body knows his mother had no idea who his father might have been.  Social Services wants Zoot to give up the baby.  They say it is best for the baby as he cannot raise it alone but he wants to keep the baby. The social services people are constantly spying on Zoot trying to prove he is a bad father. Wall does a great job of making us sort of like Zoot and root for him to keep the baby even though we know he will be a terrible father, but we never guessed just how terrible.  The ending of this story is so macabre and marvelous that I am going to tell any of it.  As I read it I exclaimed "what" to myself as I did not quite believe what happened.   All in all this was, in spite of the evident tragedies and deaths, a very entertaining story.   It deals with some of the leitmotifs of this years Irish Short Story Month-the huge impact of drinking on Irish society and the issues of the weak or missing Irish father.  

There are nine other stories in this collection, all of which I greatly enjoyed.  The stories are each unique though there is a bit of over lap of characters in a couple of the stories and several drawn upon classical mythology and ancient history.   These are the stories of very educated sensibility which uses deep learning to help us see through the rot of the contemporary world while not giving into romantic notions about the past.   Each one is a unique work of art created without compromise.

I completely recommend this work to any lover of the form.   Most of them are set in Ireland and there are "Irishisms" in the conversations but you do not have to be fluent in Hibernian-English to follow the conversations.  

You can learn more about the work of William Wall on his very well done webpage.  He has kindly agreed to do a Q and A session so look for that soon.

Mel u 

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