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In these twelve stories, Eugene McCabe plumbs the soul of the Irishborder counties, where confusion, divided loyalties, and conflict arepart of everyday life. A master of arresting dialogue and intimate characterisation, celebrated as a major playwright and author of one of the most important Irish novels of the last fifty years, McCabe demonstrates his outstanding gift for short fiction in this revelatory and haunting collection.
Serious with a capital "S," this book of short stories from septuagenarian Irish scribe and Butler Award winner McCabe (Death of Nightingales; Victims; etc.) is bleak in the extreme. The tales, mostly of Irish working poor, are brimming with stark religious imagery and traditional Irish guilt and retribution his characters live with God hanging over them at every juncture, alcohol providing their only respite. McCabe is unquestionably a talented writer capable of inserting tiny details ("yellow teeth in red gums, his face white like a monk's") that vividly illuminate his characters' wretched lives. In the title story, a small child is raped by her older brother. Their mother's insistence that she part with her best friend/stuffed bear is heartbreaking, and the conclusion is more devastating still. Later, in "Victorian Fields," a woman's husband and his brother set out to steal her land; to do so, they portray her to the authorities as an incestuous whore who is carrying another man's child. The physical and emotional torture she suffers at their hands is horrific. In "Cancer," a character remarks that "Livin's worse nor dyin', and that's a fact": a recurring theme applicable to most of the stories' characters. Over the course of an entire book these chronicles of "famine, horror and hatred" are grimly unrelenting. McCabe's writing, while often quite beautiful and poetic, demands much stamina and perseverance from readers. FYI:This is McCabe's first collection of stories to be published in the U.S.