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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"The Can With the Diamond Notch" by Seamus O'Kelly (1902)

Event Resources  Everyone Is Invited to Join Us for Irish Short Story Month Year Four

Ways to Participate-do a post on your blog and let me know about it-I will keep a master list and I will publicize your post and blog.

If you are an Irish author and would like to be featured, please contact me.   There are several options open.

If you would like to do a guest post on my blog on anything related to Irish short stories, contact me.

"The Weaver's Grave" (1902) by Seamus O'Kelly  (1881 to 1918- Loughrea, Ireland) is one of the most loved of all Irish short stories.  I never tire of the reading of this story.  William Trevor in his his introduction to The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories said it was "an example of the antique form in the process of drifting into modernism".  I have posted on it and two other stories by O'Kelly, "The Shoe Maker" and "The Building".  

"The Can with the Diamond Notch" took me to the beautiful country side of western Ireland, circa 1900.  ( I speculate that the portrayal of Travelers - called by the old term "Tinkers", might offend some with its treatment of them as roving bands of tricksters outside main stream society but it represents the views of the time.)

I really like how this story so much made me feel I was back in time in the West of Ireland.  It's central character is a shop keeper who sells to everyone in the area, on credit when needed.  His thinking was "my terms are long so my profit should be also".  Everyone respects him, no one haggles over prices in his store.  One day he is on a buying trip to local farms for things to sell in the store when a tinker approaches him offering to sell him a tin can, used for milk and such.  The tinker praises the can, which he claims he made, in extravagant terms and says it breaks his heart but family needs push him to offer it for sale.  A really delightful bargaining session is depicted and the merchant ends up buying it, thinking he will easily double his money.  Then the trouble starts, a traveler woman approaches him and tells him the other man stole this can from her husband, who is famous for putting a diamond notch in his cans.  I laughed out loud when the woman starting telling the merchant what a fine figure of a man he was and how any woman would be proud to have him as a husband.  Chaos begins when a group of travelers descend on his wagon!

The conversations in this story are just totally wonderful. The characters are perfectly brought to life.   I read this in a collection of his stories, The Wanderers that I downloaded from  

First read "The Weaver's Grave", then either this story or "The Shoe Maker".  I really want to read his longer work, "The Leprechaun" but I cannot find it online.  If anyone can help me with this, please contact me.


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