Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests





Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Warburgs: The Twentieth Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family by Ron Chernow - 1993, 880 Pages








I offer my great thanks to Max u for The Amazon Gift Card that allowed me to read this great book.

An Autodidactic  Corner Selection.

Anyone interested in twentieth century Jewish history, international finance, German banking, the Holocaust, and much more narrated through the lives of the Warburg Family will love this book. The story begins in the mid 16th century when a Warburg was a “Court Jew” in Hamburg to the development of a fortune and a legend to rival  the Rothchilds.  One Warburg founded the Federal reserve bank in America while helping other Jews out of Nazi Germany, another used his vast fortune to build great library, preferring Reading to banking.   Chernow has a wonderful way of making us know each of the many family members.  We know much more about them than we do about most subjects of biographies.

The book really gets going toward the end of the 19th century.  The Warburgs were very patriotic Germans.  They helped the Germans Finance the Franco-Prussian War.  Warburgs were in the German Army in World War One.  After the war they did all they could to reduce the harsh demands of The Treaty of Versailles on Germany.  Chernow does a wonderful job working in details about the period.  

As we enter the 1930s Chernow lets us feel the tension among German Jews.  Most German Jews thought or hoped Hitler would “calm down”.  Some knew this was an illusion, others thought their WW One Iron Crosses would save them.  Through a combination of foresight, good luck and a willingness to pay huge penalties, almost all the Family got out before 1939.  To the great credit of the Family, they took many employees and personal servants out with them. The Family entered the private banking business in New York City and became even more wealthy.  

Warburgs tended to marry within the extended family.  (Children of first cousins are only slightly more likely to have Birth defects than orher children though if the practice continues for several generations the risk grows.) An acceptable Warburgs mate had to be Jewish and very rich so the options were limited.  As family members were born in New York City, some did marry rich Christians but they did find some family resistance. We see some of the marriages were long loving relationships, some of the men had mistresses.  The Warburgs supported numerous Jewish causes, had complex feelings about Zionism, were great patrons of the arts in addition to bring powerful business men.  Most were highly cultured and felt a banker should know more than just finance. 

This is a delightful book.  A book as richly informative as the family it teaches us about.


Ron Chernow’s bestselling books include The House of Morgan, winner of the National Book Award; The Warburgs, which won the George S. Eccles Prize; The Death of the Banker; Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Washington: A Life, which received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography; and Alexander Hamilton, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and adapted into the award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton.

Chernow has served as president of PEN, has received eight honorary doctoral degrees, and was awarded the 2015 National Humanities Medal. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. From ronchernow.com

Mel u

















Friday, April 20, 2018

“Thirty-Five-A-Night” - A Short Story by Shauna Gilligan, 2018






















It was during Irish Short Story Month III in March of 2012 that I first read a Short Story by Shauna Gilligan.  Since then I have posted on several more of her Short Stories and her wonderful debut novel Happiness Comes from Nowhere.  She was kind enough to contribute three guest posts on Irish writers to The Reading Life.  She also participated in two question and answer sessions. Her website is very valuable to all interested in Irish literature and beyond.  

Knowing I wanted to once again feature her work during ISSM VIII she kindly gave me access to a very interesting  just published story “Thirty-Five-A-Night”, told from the point of view of a woman involved in a long term affair, neither party is married.  They mostly see each other on weekends.
Gilligan does an elegant and very intuitive introduction to the story in which we come to understand the relationship.


“We have our routine, John and I. Every Saturday night we follow winding roads to an old hotel or a long-standing bed-and-breakfast in the countryside where we watch, in streak-free mirrors, the scenes we create on king-sized beds. In Dingle I am Madonna; in Cork I become Marianne Faithful; in Galway I have the allure of Eva Braun. John dons one of his moustaches and heeled boots; a signet ring and a medallion; a tasselled studded jacket. For those few hours we are anywhere and anyone but civil servants who live in old houses with aging parents. But this weekend we’re not in the country; for €35 a night we can stay in Dublin and that’s what John’s decided. And so we cruise through the Phoenix Park in John’s shiny Volvo, see a couple jogging in matching tracksuits, pass pretty white benches. There are people curled up on them, already sleeping. I think of what Maeve, my work pal said to me earlier: if I could describe John in one word, then I’d know. I sorted through heaps of payroll claims before I landed on a word. Considerate. Maeve chewed on the lid of her pen. “You mean in that he considers what you like, that sort of thing?” “Yeah.” “Sounds like the marrying type.” More than being a wife, I want to feel what it is to be the woman for whom a man would give up his life. We cruise out through the ornate gates of the Park and a flutter of excitement runs through me. I feel the throb and pinch of new patent heels on my feet, think of the new lacy pants from Marks in my bag.”

From the references to Madonna, Marianne Faithful and Eva Braun we can form a guess as to their ages, and maybe we can see how John relates to her sexually and per2haps what fantasies he projects on her.  I wondered how she sees the relationship.  Tonight John is taking her to a more expensive place than normal, 35 Euros a night.  As I follow them into the hotel we gather it is mostly a place for couples looking for privacy for a romantic liaison.  

As they register the woman is made to feel that the much younger woman receptionist is almost laughing at her.  I have observed people tend to all their lives stay most interested in singers they first encountered in their late teens or twenties.  To elaborate Marianne Faithful became famous in Ireland and The UK, less so in America,in the 1960s.  Her songs were often very sexual.  Given this we can project an age of at least fifty for the couple.  Maybe John likes to imagine he is sleeping with one of these singers.  The Eva Braun reference would take more explication.  Eva's relationship hardly ended well. The narrator somehow is made to feel uncomfortable by the very muted response of the receptionist.  Maybe she is projecting her feelings that she should be settled at her age, not going for sex weekends dressing up to please a man.  I wonder why John needs this. 

The fascinating  ending of the story took me deeper into the mind of the narrator.  I loved the ending but for sure did not see it coming.  I think this would be a very good story for classroom discussion as to the methods Gilligan uses in just a few pages to go so deep.


Shauna Gilligan is a novelist and short story writer from Dublin, Ireland.  She has lived and worked in Mexico, Spain, and the UK, and now lives in County Kildare with her family and a black and white cat called Lucky.
She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of South Wales, is a registered teacher with the Teaching Council of Ireland, an active member of the Arts Council of Ireland Writers-in-Prisons Panel and a Professional Mentor with Irish Writers’ Centre. Shauna facilitates creative writing workshops with people of all ages. She teaches students in universities, in the community, and in prison settings.

Shauna enjoys collaborating with visual artists and is particularly interested in exploring the crossover of art and literature in storytelling, the depiction of historical events in fiction, and creative processes.
Her debut novel Happiness Comes from Nowhere was a critical success and the Sunday Independent review declared it to be a “thoroughly enjoyable and refreshingly challenging debut novel.” 

Shauna is represented by Charlotte Seymour at Andrew Nurnberg Associates International Literary Agency.  From the author’s website.

I hope to follow the work of Shauna Gilligan for a long time.  Be sure to read her two Q And A sessions and her contributed essays.  Writers like Gilligan mean Irish Short Story writers have a future as great as the past 

Mel u










Wednesday, April 18, 2018

“The Anti-Christ” - A Short Story by Riham Adly - 2017









“The Anti-Christ” is the fouth Short Story by Riham Adly I have so far read.  I hope fate will allow me to read many more.  To me this is among the highest complements one can pay a writer.

“The Anti-Christ” takes place on a cross country bus in Saudia Arabia. The story is structured through the conversation of two preadolescent girls, one is from very traditional Muslim family, one is from a Christian family.  In this very perceptive story we see how prejudices are absorbed by the young from their parents.  The bus has stopped.  The Christian girl is playing with her Barbie.  She asks the Muslim girl if she has a Barbie.  In the perfect lines below we see that perhaps one day these girls will pass along hatred to their own children.


“Where’s your Barbie, don’t you have one? I saw a Fullah doll in an Abaya just like yours.”
Nourah looked down at her long black sleeves.
“I never liked those. I want one like yours. I like the green T-shirt and the pink skirt.”
“Then why don’t you get one?” Elizabeth cocked an eyebrow.
“Father says I shouldn’t. They’re not good. Like figurines, they can bring in the Djin. Bad creatures we can’t see that could harm us. Harm our soul.”
Elizabeth didn’t say anything, forcing the silence between them.
“What’s your name?” Nourah repeated.
Elizabeth put the doll down. She looked like a student in a math class trying to figure out the square root of 576.
“I’m Elizabeth.”

The girls begin a theological disputes stirred by what the Muslim girl’s father felt about Barbie dolls.  They become agitated in their espousal of a child’s view of complex theological issues.   

“My dad says evil Djin live in the eyes of Barbies and figurines and they are the window of evil, and that we should protect our souls and hearts for when the Antichrist comes.”
“The Antichrist will come at the end of times. Dad calls it the apocalypse. We’re not at the end of times, yet. Dad says there are signs. Some of them have happened, some not yet.”
“Father says we should be prepared, it could be anytime. Says the Antichrist will come and wash our brains, make us follow his evil, but Al Mahdi and Jesus peace be upon him will save us and kill him. He’s a one-eyed monster who doesn’t want us to believe in Allah, only in the one God who has no son and no wife, do we believe. Only Islam will prevail. My  father said so.”
“You are wrong!”

As the story winds down, the girls unite in their fear of a man on the bus who they think might be planning to hold them hostage for ransom.


Riham Adly is a creative writing instructor from Gizah, Egypt with several short stories published in online lit magazines such as Page&Spine, The 10 minutes Novelist, Paragraph Planet, Visual Verse, Fictional café, and The HFC Journal. Her short story “The Darker Side of the Moon” won the Makan Award in Egypt and was published in an anthology with the same name. Her stories appeared in Centum Press 1000 voices anthology volume 2 and volume 3. Riham currently hosts her own book club “Rose’s Cairo Book Club” in the American University in Cairo for those few –but existing- bibliophiles. - from The author

Twitter: @RoseInink
FB Author page: https://www.facebook.com/roseinink/

I greatly enjoyed this story.  In just a few pages Adly brings to young girls to life on a bus, takes us into the world views of their families through marvelous dialogue.  She also elegantly describes the countryside and made me feel I was on the bus.

I hope to follow the work of Riham Adly for many years.

I endorse her work to all lovers of the form

Mel u
















Monday, April 16, 2018

“Saint Katerine’s Day’”. - A Short Story by Lili Berger - 1968. - translated from Yiddish by Frieda Forman and Ethel Raicus








Hundreds of thousands of Jewish children were murdered in the Holocaust. As the war escalated in the early Forties and Jews were sent to ghettos, and to work and death camps, parents tried every imaginable way to save their children. Many gave them away for hiding, hoping to come back for them after the war. Children were taken to convents. Some Christian families were willing to risk their own lives to save a child, others were bribed and still others turned over the children to the authorities while keeping the remuneration. The hidden children were usually raised as Christians.  Those who were given away as babies did not remember their parents after the war and often were reluctant to leave the only family they knew. If no mother or father survived, the child’s background was withheld. Today, particularly in Eastern Europe, thousands of middle-aged adults know nothing of their true parentage or religion. Writer Lili Berger tells a not uncommon story of a teenage girl who discovers an identity hidden from her for fifteen years....from Found Treasures: Stories by Yiddish Women

Today’s story opens on Saint Katerine’s Day in 1957.  In 1942 a group of Jews were being marched through a small town somewhere in German occupied Europe.  Everyone in the village closes their windows and fears to look at them.  Once they pass a woman, her husband and child were collateral damage in the war, finds a baby has been left on her door.  Now five teen years later the girl’s class mates taunt her for “looking Jewish”.  Katerine knows something is wrong, she has little resemblance to the woman she has always believed was her mother.  In a very well rendered emotionally wringing scene the mother does tell her how she came to be adopted and tells her “Yes, you are Jewish”.  The girl wants to know her real name.   The last lines are very moving:

““I’ll ask Sister, perhaps she has it, perhaps …. But be patient, better I go myself, it’s more fitting.” “And family? Relatives? Do I have someone … ?” “How can we know that? You have … me, Uncle Karol, Auntie, aren’t we your family ? Am I not a mother to you and you a daughter to me?” “Yes, yes, you are, of course you are, but —” and Katerine broke into tears again. Shortly after Saint Katerine’s Day, mother and daughter together composed and mailed the following notice to the Red Cross, Missing Relatives Division: “Miriam Zack, daughter of Leyzer and Rivke Zack from the city of T., seeks relatives, wherever they may be, within the country or abroad. Reply.”

I have access to two more stories by Lili Berger and hope to post on them this year.



Berger, Lili.  From The Yivo Encyclopedia of Eastern European Jews.


(1916–1996), Yiddish novelist and critic; resistance fighter. Lili Berger (née List; “Lili Berger” is a pseudonym) was born in Malkin, in the Białystok region of Poland. Brought up in an Orthodox Jewish family, she attended Hebrew school for three years and also received a secular education at the Polish Jewish secondary school in Warsaw. In 1933, Berger moved to Brussels and studied pedagogy. Three years later she joined the growing number of Polish Jewish refugees in Paris and soon married Louis Gronowski, a leading figure in the Jewish section of the Communist Party.

Before World War II, Berger worked for various Yiddish journals, including the daily Di naye prese, the weekly Di vokh, and the monthly Afsnay. She also taught at Yiddish supplementary schools. Her professional interest in pedagogy later inspired her to write about renowned Jewish educators; these figures appear in several short stories, a play about Janusz Korczak (Der letster tog [The Last Day]; 1978) and a novel (Nisht farendikte bletlekh [Unfinished Pages]; 1982) about Bundist leader Ester Frumkin (Khaye Malke Lifshits).

During the Nazi occupation of France, Berger and her husband, like many other Jewish Communists in France, were active in the Jewish resistance; she herself led a small autonomous cell within the Communist Party. From 1942, Berger was head of the National Movement against Racism (MNCR). In 1949, she returned to her native Poland, and in Warsaw published her first three books: a collection of short stories, a collection of essays, and a novel. The short stories, titled Fun haynt un nekhtn (From Today and Yesterday; 1965), drew predominantly on Berger’s own experiences of the war in France and its aftermath in Eastern Europe. In Eseyen un skitsn (Essays and Sketches; 1965) she criticized works of Polish, French, Swiss, and Yiddish fiction and reflected on the role of literature.
Berger passionately believed in the dream of Jewish reconstruction in the Communist state. Her ideological conviction outlived that of many others, and she did not leave Poland until the late 1960s. “Di papirene oytsres” (Paper Treasures), written immediately upon her return to France in 1968 and published in the collection Ekhos fun a vaytn nekhtn (Echoes of a Remote Past; 1993), is a thinly disguised autobiographical account of a writer having to choose a small number of manuscripts to take with him when he is forced to leave Poland. The story, while focusing on dilemmas faced by an individual, powerfully reveals Berger’s own mixed emotions toward that historical moment when the curtain was about to fall on Jewish culture in Poland.
Berger’s literary career gained great momentum after she settled in France for the second time. Though she published two books in Polish, most of her writing was in Yiddish. There she produced three novels, several collections of short stories and essays, a play, and translations into Yiddish from French and Polish. She also contributed widely to Yiddish magazines and participated in Parisian Yiddish circles until her death.




Saturday, April 14, 2018

“Drishti” - A Short Story by Janet H Swinney- 2017














The collage images are from Goa, India, the setting for “Drishti” by Janet H Swinney.  Goa came under the control of the Portuguese in 1510 and remained so until India annexed it in 1961.  It has an international reputation as a place of 
unbridled hedonism, open use of marijuana and hashish, 
sexual license and was at one time a stop on the “hippy trail”.  Conservatives might see it as a place of decadence, personally I could use a month there. Tourism is the main source of income for the province.  Many of the mostly European visitors are fascinated by Indian culture. Goa has a vibrant nightlife and incredible beaches. The beaches are lined with resorts.The  lead character in “Drishti” works as a life guard on one of the beaches.  Janet H Swinney’s powerful short story takes us deeply into the life of Satish, we see the beach through his eyes, a world far from the glittering resorts.  


As the story opens Satish is perched in his elevated lifeguard chair. It is morning, the start of his shift and the beach is not yet busy. He scans the beach.  He glances at his left thumb nail, over an inch long, and varnished bright red.  This denotes his membership in the Vaishnavite sect.  He enjoys seeing how this makes locals uneasy and intrigues Europeans.

His friend and fellow lifeguard Dhirendra is also a Vaishnavite devotee, they have the same guru.  Dhirendra has learned how to profit from the Darker side of Goa:

“Dhirendra is the kind of guy who mooches about the town of an evening, usually outside the loudest bars and wine shops. He’s on good terms with a remarkably large number of people it is important to know – bar owners, bouncers, security guards at posh residences and so on. After the power goes off at eight, he puts the bike into a low gear and trundles round the dark streets with the headlamp off, seeing what unusual goings-on he can uncover – fellows entering houses that are not their own; home-made hooch being transported in three wheelers; girls disposing of unwanted babies in garbage bins: that sort of thing. These days, Satish is often a passenger on the pillion, as Dhirendra roams the drinking dens and eateries and follows solitary women scuttling to get home after work.”


A talented short story writer can take us deeply into a social milieu, one beyond the luxury resorts, which tourists rarely see. In just a few sentences Swinney has accomplished this marvellously, as we can see in the passages above.  

Satish’s work as a lifeguard, a job of which he is proud, can get tedious. He passes time by playing games on his cell phone.

We see old caste structures are still deeply embedded in the consciousness of Satish.  With the beach full of European women, often very briefly attired he has eyes only for an older Goan woman that collects refuge on the beach, once a job for Dalits. He calls her “Miss Mango Slice”.  

“Miss Mango Slice is the love of his life though she doesn’t know it. He calls her that because she always wears a yellow blouse and a concoction of yellow and orange shawls and skirts that he can’t quite fathom. And today, as usual, she has a red leather hat with a wide brim jammed firmly on her head. She makes her way towards him in a leisurely but purposeful manner, with her big basket braced on one hip, and her sweeping brush trailing from her other hand. He can’t take his eyes off her. He admires the way she paces herself. She works long hours, mostly in the hot sun, criss-crossing the beach systematically until the job is done...

Miss Mango Slice is way below him socially. Poor though his family is, his mother would be horrified if she knew that he entertained thoughts of a relationship with a refuse collector. Miss Mango Slice is older than him too. That’s easy to tell. He doesn’t even know if she’s married, as she wears none of the usual markers. However, as he looks down into her laconic brown eyes, and notes the jittery earring that plays against her neck in the breeze, like a bunch of keys inviting entry, he knows he just doesn’t care.
She gathers up her things, and drifts off again across the sand, showing him an excellent pair of pink heels and long, narrow, well-formed calves.”

Satish is excited by a glimpse of her calves, but not near naked much younger Europeans women.

We observe the beach from the lifeguard stand. We learn the supposed reasons Indians are not allowed in the whites area of the beach.

Satish’s shift is almost open. He is thirsty and wants some food but the next on duty lifeguard has not yet arrived.  He cannot leave the station unattended but if he calls he office to inform them his friend will be in trouble.

There is a lot more to this story. I’m leaving much untold for new readers. I found the point of view very imaginative.  Swinney is very good with small details. Through this story my view of life has been expanded. I read this story twice.  I will post on another of Swinney’s stories soon.

I greatly enjoyed this story and endorse it to all lovers of the form.

Author supplied data


Repentant education inspector, based in London but with ties in India.
Eleven of her stories have appeared in print. The most recent of these, 'Political Events Have Taken a Turn,' appears in ‘The Sorcery of Smog.’ (Earlyworks Press 2018). Other stories have appeared online in ‘The Bombay Literary Magazine’, ‘Out of Print’, ‘Joao Roque’ and the ‘Indian Review’.
She was a runner-up in the London Short Story competition 2014, and nominated for the Eric Hoffer prize for prose 2012. Her first collection of stories will be published shortly by Circaidy Gregory Press. She is currently working on a play based on stories by Manto.
Find her on Facebook at Janet H Swinney – Addicted to Fiction, or at www.janethswinney.com

Mel u












Friday, April 13, 2018

“Rock Temple”. - A Short Story by Amanthi Harris- 2012, in Five Degrees













The collages images are of UNESCO World Heritage Cave Temples in Sri Lanka.  The most spectacular is The Dambula Cave Temple, constructed initially about 100 BCE. In addition to being of great historical importance importance they are pilgrim sites.  “Rock Temple” takes place on a visit to a rock temple.  The images hopefully will give us a better feel for the events in the story.  For sure they made want to take my wife on a trip to Sri Lanka.

As “Rock Temple” opens a couple, not married are in Sri Lanka. The woman is Sinhalese,  the man English.  They are visiting her parents.  Her mother is very vocal about her disapproval of their relationship, suggesting her daughter is degrading her values by sleeping with the man before marriage.  She compares her to a white girl.

The couple are on their way to visit a Rock Temple.  This does involve a lot of walking and the woman thinks the man is insisting they go just to annoy her.  She suggests he is unhappy with her for not being as sexually free as western women he has known. He insists he wants to go.

Normally when she goes on an excursion in Sri Lanka, they stay at trendy resorts.  They hire a driver to take them. When they get there it is vey calm and serene not full of people with gadgets.  It is like a trip back to simpler times.

The site is overwhelmingly beautiful.  The Temple is structured in five cave levels.  The first view of the exquisite art work and the array of statues of the Buddha would nearly overwhelm me and I think many others.

As they advance higher in the Temple we learn a priest, friends of the family since the woman was a child has been made to live way up in the Temple as a punishment for some kept hushed up sin.  The priest seems a man of wisdom and kindness.  He can see the love in the couples relationship.  Unlike her mother, he does not judge them.

“Rock Temple” is a very interesting story. I look forward to following Harris’s literary and artistic career for years to come.  This is the third story of Harris upon which I have posted.  I see her as a very talented and perceptive writer.


“I was born in Sri Lanka and  grew up in Colombo. Later I moved to London where I have been ever since, with an escape now and then to Paris and to Sint Truiden in Belgium, to Goa and Cornwall and currently the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain where I am on sabbatical.

“I studied Chemistry then Law at Bristol University, and far more usefully, Fine Art at Central St Martins. I’ve been a terrible trainee solicitor, a very bored editor of law books and a blissfully contented bookseller, writing and making art along the way. I’ve had short stories published, one of which, Red Sari is taught in schools in Sweden and I have also had stories commissioned for and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as Afternoon Readings. I won the Gatehouse Press New Fictions Prize 2016 with my novella Lantern Evening which is published by Gatehouse Press.

I have a Fine Art practice using drawing, painting and 3D and am with the V22 artist collective.
I also run StoryHug an Arts Council England funded project using art and stories to inspire creativity and community.” From the author

Mel u




Wednesday, April 11, 2018

“The Boatman” - A Short Story by Billie O’Callaghan - in The Irish Times, February 3, 2017










I first began to read Billie O’Callaghan during ISSM III in March of 2013.  I have posted upon both of his short story collections (pictured above), and his debut novel The Dead House.  Additionally he kindly allowed me to publish one of his short stories on The Reading Life.  O’Callaghan does not just write great short stories, he knows and loves the form and has a deep to the bone feeling for Ireland. Reading his wide ranging Q and A session will give you lots of reading suggestions.  I have also reviewed his short story 



collections for the award wining publication The Lakeview Journal of the Arts and Literature.  Obviously I would not devote this much time an attention to a writer I did not see as highly talented and insightful. 

“The Boatman” (you may read it at the link above) opens on a day no parent ever wants to face, the funeral of your only child.  It is four in the morning, a father is waiting for his brother in law to arrive.  Together they will dig the grave.
The father can barely recall his marriage before his daughter was born.  Everything resolved around her.  His wife has not been able to stop crying.  The man cannot bring himself to cry or even hug his wife.  

This is a really moving story.  I don’t want to tell to much, just a bit more.

The father, a boatman, has come to love Reading.  I love 


how the boatman talks about reading:

“have always enjoyed reading, but it is a pleasure that has deepened in recent years. Sleep comes hard for me; if I can get three hours then I’ll count that as a decent night. So, after Margaret has gone to bed, and so that I won’t disturb her by burning a light, I’ll sit up in the kitchen and for a while get into a book, in order to put myself down. I’ve lived this way since before we were married, and I always have an old paperback in my pocket. It’s about filling the empty moments, I think, blocking out the spaces between acts. Sometimes, when I am out in the boat and after I have cast my nets, there’ll be a period of calm, and I’ll have a chance to sit a while and simply watch the sky, and to enjoy the flashing colours of the light on the water, and to ponder. 

Summer days start early, and two or three miles out to sea the only sounds to be had are often those of the calm swell lapping at the sides of the boat and maybe the occasional scream of a gull or gannet or the splash of something missed by the eye breaking the surface for air before going back under.
I’ll breathe then and look up from the page, and I’ll feel at once both at home and violently dislocated because my mind has its own way of lingering in far-off lands. A thousand stories crowd my head, maybe a hundred thousand, and I understand if I think about it that I’ve made worlds of the places in which those stories play out every bit as much as their creator has; I’ve flushed them with the reek and music of life, I’ve filled them with voices. My Texas Panhandle, my Tartar Steppe, my Society Islands exist for me as vividly as they will for those who have actually felt the grass and dirt and dust of such places beneath their feet. Thoughts like that flip reality into the chaos of a 


spinning coin so that in the same instant everything is true and nothing is. Our surround is there as we perceive it, and our dead are at once gone and everywhere.”

This is a very Irish story universally applicable.  O’Callaghan takes us underneath the all encompsssing Catholic hold on the culture, you can see this in the narrator’s thoughts on his late father:

“He attended Mass because he’d been brought up to do so, the same as everyone else on our island, mumbling the Catholic prayers that we’d all been taught by heart, the strings of words in two languages and stripped of meaning or worth in either one. But anyone who knew him knew that his heart beat for other things. Superstitions, reading signs everywhere, counting particular types of birds at certain times of year, listening out for frogs in the ditches or the wailing of vixens in the night, watching the ruts in the sand, always feeling the air for omens. And, in between, quietly musing about the beautiful details of the world and how they must have come into being, and where certain traits in people came from, and talents. He knew the sea like it had 

been forged with him in mind, knew the tides and currents and where the reefs lay, and when the shoals of mackerel or herring would come and into what waters, as if the hundreds of his line who’d learned the waves inch by inch had educated him through blood and by some unwritten right, gifting him the knowledge”

This is what I meant when I said O’Callaghan had a to the bones depth of feeling for Ireland.

I loved this story.  Of course it made me think about what no father of three daughters cares to contemplate. As Irish Stories often are, it focuses on death, shows the emotionally reserved nature of the Irish, makes use of natural symbolism and there Is Whiskey.


Billy O'Callaghan was born in Cork in 1974, and is the author of three previous short story collections: In Exile (2008) and In Too Deep (2009), both published by the Mercier Press, and The Things We Lose, the Things We Leave Behind 
(2013) published by New Island Books, the title story of which earned him the 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for Short Story of the Year.
The recipient of literature bursaries from the Arts Council in 2010 and the Cork County Council in 2015 among several other honours, including the Molly Keane Award and the George A. Birmingham Award, his work has been broadcast on RTE Radio One's Book On One, Sunday Miscellany and the Francis MacManus Awards series. He has also been short-listed on four occasions for the RTE/P.J. O'Connor Award for Radio Drama.
Over the past fifteen years, his short stories have appeared in some ninety literary magazines and journals around the world, including: Absinthe: New European Writing, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, the Bellevue Literary Review, Bliza, Confrontation, the Fiddlehead, the Forge Magazine, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Kenyon Review, the Kyoto Journal, London Magazine, the Los Angeles Review, Narrative Magazine, the Southeast Review, Southword, Versal, and Yuan Yang: a Journal of Hong Kong and International Writing. New work is forthcoming in Salamander, the Emerson Review and Valparaiso Fiction Review. He also contributes regular book reviews to the Irish Examiner.
Billy won second place in the 2017 Costa Short Story Awards for his story The Boatman..  from O’Brien Press

I hope to follow his work for years and I think we can count on him being featured during ISSM IX in March 2019 and hopefully many years beyond.

Mel u