The short story has always been a staple of Irish literature. James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, Frank O’Connor, Sean O’Faolain, Maeve Brennan, William Trevor and Mary Lavin are just some of a long list of internationally recognised writers.
As the celebrated short story writer Frank O’Connor notes
A great story is not necessarily short at all, and the conception of the short story as a miniature art is inherently false. Basically, the difference between the short story and the novel is not one of length. It is a difference between pure and applied storytelling.
In the last five years, there have been a number of impressive anthologies celebrating Irish short story writers of the past and the rising stars of the future. Here are some of the best that have been published.
The Glass Shore and The Long Gaze Back, edited by Sinead Gleeson
The importance and influence of these two collections cannot be stressed enough. Originally published to right the imbalance of inclusion of women writers in anthologies, The Glass Shore and The Long Gaze Back have brought long overlooked women writers back in to the spotlight.
I wrote a more in depth piece about both these groundbreaking collections last year and you can read it here.
Being Various: New Irish Short Stories, edited by Lucy Caldwell
Following publication of her own brilliant short story collection Multitudes, Lucy Caldwell guest edited the sixth volume of Faber’s long running series of new Irish short stories last year, continuing the great work started by the late David Marcus and subsequent guest editors Kevin Barry, Deirdre Madden and Joseph O’Connor.
Eimear McBride, Kit de Waal and Sally Rooney are among the writers to feature in Being Various: New Irish Short Stories, which brings together new stories from Ireland’s current golden age of writing and features newly commissioned works from writers including Louise O’Neill, Paul McVeigh, Kevin Barry, Lisa McInerney and Arja Kajermo.
Of the collection, Lucy Caldwell says:
“Being Various has a brilliant array of writers making waves in the twenty-first century, from lauded names to newcomers ranging from their twenties to their sixties; Irish by birth, by parentage, or residence.”
The Other Irish Tradition, edited by Rob Doyle
This collection focuses on new experimental writing from Ireland, which has experienced a real resurgence in the last decade. Featuring contributions from Solar Bones author Mike McCormack; June Caldwell’s legendary story Leitrim Flip; an excerpt from Anakana Schofield’s brilliant Martin Joseph and even a piece of new” writing even from the 1800s, with James Clarence Mangan’s 69 Drops of Laudanum, this is a really interesting collection of work that sits somewhat outside of the mainstream.
Still Worlds Turning: New Short Fiction, edited by Emma Warnock
The exciting No Alibis Press published this anthology last year, featuring an introduction by June Caldwell. Still Worlds Turning gathers original stories from twenty celebrated and emerging writers from the UK, Ireland and beyond. This is not an anthology tied to one place, nor does it claim to be representative of a generation or define the contemporary moment. The aim of this book is to present new short fiction of the highest quality to fans of the genre and new readers alike.
Featuring stories from Jan Carson, Lucy Caldwell, Wendy Erskine and Sam Thompson, this is an eclectic and entertaining collection.
This week I will be focusing on short story collections from several Irish writers. Brian Friel, more widely known for his work as a playwright; Norah Hoult, whose reputation and work are experiencing a well-deserved renaissance and Oisin Fagan, who explores more subversive, speculative territory.
To celebrate the launch of Short Story Week, I am giving away a copy of Being Various: New Irish Short Stories which has been signed by editor Lucy Caldwell.
To enter, just comment below with your favourite short story writer (Irish or otherwise!) and I will draw a winner on Sunday. Good luck!
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!