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, November 18, 2013

SOFT RAIN by TRISHA MCKINNEY (RTE GUIDE) 2013 Irish Short Story of the Year Finalist

    This year, sponsored by, there are six finalists for Irish Short Story of The Year.  All can thankfully be read for free online.  The Irish are the acknowledged masters of this form. Two of the six writers have graciously done Q and A sessions on The Reading Life, Danielle McClaughlin and Billy O'Callaghan.  Colin Barrett has graciously agreed to also do a Q and A and I will soon post on his wonderful debut collection, Young Skins.   I am looking forward to first for me readings of the other four writers.  

I will read them in the order below starting with "Bait" by Colin Barrett Short Story of the Year Award Shortlist Revealed

In alphabetical order (click on each title for further information) the six shortlisted short stories are:

BAIT by COLIN BARRETT (From Young Skins – Stinging Fly Press)


A DIFFERENT COUNTRY by DANIELLE MCLAUGHLIN (From Issue 23 Volume Two – Winter 2013 The Stinging Fly)

HOW I BEAT THE DEVIL by PAUL MURRAY (From Town and Country: New Irish Short Stories – Faber & Faber)

THE THINGS WE LOSE, THE THINGS WE LEAVE BEHIND by BILLY O’CALLAGHAN (From The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind – New Island)

THE DAY THINGS CHANGED by NIAMH O’CONNOR (From If I Was A Child Again – Poolbeg Press)

Read the individual entries here and click to go to the Irish Book Awards website to vote for your favourite!  

"Henry pulls the bedcovers over his face and breathes through damp wool while he scans the room.  A few feet away he hears the familiar scratching and turns to see a thin brown rat perched on top of the wardrobe.

He stares at the rodent until it scurries away, then he places his feet on the ‘welcome’ mat beside his bed.  He could smear traps with peanut butter or chocolate, the way his father taught him: lure the rats to sudden death if he wanted.  The springs are fast and strong.  He’s seen them snapping, the delicate wire crushing heads and breaking backs in seconds." From "Soft Rain" by Trisha McKinney.

For better and more probably worse I have after two years of focusing heavily on Irish literature my own notions about it.  I sort of look for elements in stories, novels and now poetry that confirm my reading of Irish literature as post colonial and tied to this is the issue of the weak or missing father, surface emotional reticence hiding great well springs of feeling, and a love for the land and a concern about what it means to be irish.  Death hovers over the Irish short story in a way I don't see in say short stories of the Philippines and India. You can see all of this in short stories that go from those in Dubliners and George Moore to from a century ago to stories by writers listed for The Irish Short Story of the Year Award for 2013.  You can see this in Patrick Kavanagh's magisterial poem, "The Great Hunger".  I have benefited also from reading an historical study Occasions for Sin:  Sex and Society in Modern Ireland by Diarmaid Ferriter who provides extensive documentation justifying some of my ideas on the Irish short story.  

"Soft Rain" has two central onstage characters, a grown man and his elderly father.  They live together in the rural west of Ireland, near the coast.  The life blood of the family, the wife and mother, was killed 15 years ago when she was hit by a Range Rover when riding her bike.  Since then the father and son have just been sort of going through the motions of life, stuck in routines.  The father now needs the help of the son to do the simple things of life like shaving.  This story worships the natural beauty of Ireland.

I think the quotation I opened the story with about rats shows the great brilliance of McKinney in  bringing out the gentleness of the son, his capacity for love for things he cannot express.  The natural descriptions that open the story are very beautiful.  For sure they made me want to go back to Ireland one day.  

The ending of the story is deeply moving.  "Soft Rain" is a work very much in the tradition of "The Great Hunger" and the short stories of Dubliners.  

Trish McKinney is from Donegal and lives in Dublin.  

I hope to be able to read more of her work in the future.

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