Sunday, 31 August 2014
The Goats are Singing
Banished Misfortune (4) - Dermot Healy
Further thoughts on Dermot Healy's debut collection of short stories.
Mr Blake is a "well known" newspaper columnist who is also a dramatist. He has moved into the country with his wife and son but they have since left and he is isolated and somewhat bitter. It is near the place where he was born but he has been living in Dublin for a long time. In many ways he prefigures the narrator of A Goat's Song, who is similarly a rural dramatist separated from his ex-partner and living in isolation.
Thursday, 21 August 2014
The Goats are Singing
Banished Misfortune (3) - Dermot Healy
The third story in Banished Misfortune is The Island and the Calves, a story that I found it harder to find my feet in than the first two.
It takes place in England during Easter Week to the soundtrack of Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ and is suffused with religious imagery. The world seems not yet to have solidified, and there is a sense that what is important are the things that can't be pinned down - "History became the studying of disappearing softness, for hardness always remained, the most accessible material of man."
Monday, 11 August 2014
The Ice Age - Margaret Drabble
"there was no rational explanation for the sense of alarm, panic and despondency which seemed to flow loose in the atmosphere of England.`'
It's a while since I read The Ice Age but with one thing and another I haven't been able to get around to writing anything about it. Not that there isn't a lot to say. It is a very interesting novel and I enjoyed it a lot and will be reading more Drabble. I read this partly to take the temperature of the mid-seventies which the book does very well, integrating big social and economic issues with the character's stories.
The book opens with a scene which reminded me strongly of The Sopranos: "On a Wednesday in the second half of November, a pheasant, flying over Anthony Keating's pond, died of a heart attack, as birds sometimes do.."
Thursday, 7 August 2014
Banished Misfortune (2) - Dermot Healy
Thoughts on the second story in Banished Misfortune, Dermot Healy's book of short stories published in 1982 and featuring stories from the preceding decade.
A Family and a Future
This is an odd story which is redolent of the sexual repression and abuse which overshadows Ireland's recent past. Set in the sixties, its main character is a woman called June who blithely satisfies her sexual desires with many men, and boys. The narrator is somewhat involved in the action early on, having an early (and somewhat traumatic) sexual experience with June, who is three years older.
Monday, 4 August 2014
Banished Misfortune (1) - Dermot Healy
My intention to read all of Dermot Healy's fiction this month and write about it is ambitious considering the current speed of my reading and the rate at which I post. However I will complete the project, even if I have to stretch the idea of August. You can read my introductory post on this project here, which aims to act as my own reader's memorial to the Irish master who died in June.
I have started with reading Healy's first published book of fiction, the short story collection Banished Misfortune and I am finding it a rewarding if somewhat resistant collection. The stories demand an immersion without, in many cases, a simple revelation of plot or character.
Some stories are like incantations, passages of startling clarity resolving into an impressionist blur of time, place and character. Others are far more straightforward.