One of Paddy’s Kehoe’s Top RTÉ TEN Books for the Summer
Longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2015
Longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2016
Available now from Doire Press
Read Three Stories for Free
Paul O’Reilly’s stories are lean, no wastage, no linguistic tricksiness. A young man dances with his mother as the Pogues play (and it has to be the Pogues) in a scene that is at once sweet and Freudian. A woman discovers her teenage daughter has become embroiled in a text bullying three-way, and the tale unfolds with the gut-churning speed of a suspense novel. A man has a last rendezvous with a roadside prostitute; another man prepares to watch his father die; yet another crawls through a sewer tunnel of grief to find redemption in the bosom of family.
There’s no escape from the prevailing sense of tension. The title story’s stooge goes to Amsterdam for a match and ends up the butt of a stag-like prank, but it’s all too sad to be ironic. The protagonist of What’s Eating Him? is a sort of Jim Thompson drifter who appears to dodge a bullet in the final act, but you can’t be sure: O’Reilly cuts away at just the right moment and leaves us to complete the mystery in our minds. That takes confidence.
The Girl Missing From the Window does not attempt to forge poetry out of the everyday. The author refuses to photoshop reality with fancy language. He pushes all the unsavoury aspects of existence under your nose: the comedy and horror of mothers with Alzheimer’s and fathers hooked up to morphine pumps and swingers’ weekends gone horribly wrong — or horribly right. This is the way things are, these stories seem to say, and there’s a trapdoor under every footfall.Peter Murphy, author of John the Revelator, Shall We Gather at the River
From Austen to Tolstoy to Maeve Binchy’s novels there is endless mileage for drama in the everyday world. Paul O’Reilly’s debut collection, The Girl Missing from the Window, grounds itself in this domestic space. His flair for drama is evident throughout the collection, with storylines full of intrigue, sex and death. In this collection O’Reilly embraces the sensational in domestic life. These are the kinds of stories that make for great gossip in small towns – the you-wouldn’t-believe-what-happened-to-so-and-so that is the bedrock of Irish storytelling. Maeve Binchy would be off the bus, following any of these characters home.Sarah Gilmartin, Irish Times (full review)
These stories show a fine aesthetic steadiness, and O’Reilly successfully meditates on suicide, sexuality, emigration and death without us ever feeling like he’s checking off a list of ‘Irish literary themes.’ The prose is predominantly subtle, quiet. At its best, this results in lingering, arresting images of emotional corruption in which lives change forever (‘What Rose Did’; ‘Tinkers’), while elsewhere this can indicate a certain lifelessness in depicting complex psychological experiences (‘Alzheimer’s’).Peter Morgan, Totally Dublin (full review)
Depression is almost impossible for the sufferer to observe within him or herself and none too easy for outsiders to spot either. Melancholy though is an outcome, a mood that can be entered into; it can be objectively felt. Paul O’Reilly’s characters are aware of the moods they enter into and the reasons for them. The young man in I Wish MacGowan Hadn’t Written That Song is so aware that as he has a last dance with his mother in their kitchen the night before he leaves his Irish home permanently for New York, that The Pogues’ Fairy Tale of New York couldn’t possibly be a more ironic piece to be playing if it marched in carrying a sign. Or there is the family in the opening story, a brilliant build of family tension called What Rose Did about teen suicide and bullying. In a brilliant decision which I applaud, O’Reilly stops that story at exactly the right point, as a few seconds later there will be a burst of realisation that will destroy every relationship within that family; melancholy then to spread like an oil slick across what once was a pleasant beach.Hubert O’Hearn, By the Book Reviews (full review), San Diego Book Review (full review)
Stories carved from the underbelly of our society … an outstanding read. At times achingly beautiful, at times thought provoking in its bluntness, O’Reilly has delivered nine stories that tap into many of the modern day issues that hang over Irish society. Immigration, loneliness, teenage suicide, sexual guilt and old age are all dealt with great authority and sensitivity.Darragh Clifford, Enniscorthy Guardian
Lean, and sometimes mean, these stories sift through the flotsam and jetsam of the everyday, negotiating the sometimes tricky currents that define what home or family is or what it might be. This collection, from a talented Wexford writer, has been long-listed for the 2015 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.Donal O’Donoghue, RTÉ Guide
The subject matter is scaffolding for well-drawn characters, caught up in situations that reveal their inner cores; their sometimes fragile, and other times touching, relationships, and their engagement with a bewildering world. O’Reilly’s writing style is spare, with no artifice, just plenty of intimacy. A promising debut from a writer who is attuned to the tawdriness and the sadness that stalk his characters’ worlds.Colette Sheridan, Irish Examiner (full review)
This is dirty realism, 2015 style, and every permutation of horror is plausible in our country today. This striking debut is often topical, yet the collection transcends topicality with style and mastery, as it delves deep into human stories. These tales would make a great book club choice.Paddy Kehoe, RTÉ Ten (full review)
These stories are modern with big themes and familiar characters in challenging situations. Most importantly of all, they are told so well that one is simply compelled to keep turning the page.Sarah Carey, Talking Point, Newstalk
Whether in a delicate tale of a few pages, or in the longer, more layered and textured stories, in his first collection Paul O’Reilly proves himself both daring and skillful. The work is deeply imagined, and explores painful themes – some of which could be from today’s headlines, while others are from a hidden, darkly sexual place. Only time can tell, but it seems probable that a number of stories here will stand with the very best being written today. What is certain is that they are powerful works of imagination, and herald a fine writer.Philip Casey, author of The Fabulists, The Water Star, The Fisher Child
His stories are so relevant in their topicality, his language so powerful in its directness, and his feel for what we like to call humanity is so on the button.Lisa Frank, Doire Press
O’Reilly writes beautifully and follows Flaubert’s great injunction that the writer should be everywhere present but nowhere visible. This collection is highly persuasive, engaging impressively with the complexities of family relationships.
From reading drafts of his fiction over the past five years, I have been greatly impressed by the technical expertise he brings to his work, by the ingenuity and imagination with which he shapes his material, and by his dedication to the craft of fiction.Eamonn Wall, Professor of Irish Studies, University of Missouri, St Louis, USA
Below are images for press use. Please click on an image to open and save/export. All author photographs © Helen Kirwan.
Interviews, Articles and Readings
Appeared (with Aiden O’Reilly) at the Cork International Short Story Festival 2015 on Sept 24th, 2015.
Appeared on the ‘So You Think You Want to Write?’ panel discussion at Carlow PenFest on Sept 13th, 2015, alongside John Walsh and Lisa Frank of Doire Press, and writer John McKenna. Facilitated by Carlow Library Service.
Appeared on Kfm radio’s Artyfacts show, hosted Brenda Drumm, on July 15th, 2015.
Performed stories at Over the Edge, Galway City Library on July 9th, 2015, sharing the stage with Lorne Patterson, Mary Madec, Máire T. Robinson, John Fogarty and the charming Eamon Carr (poet, journalist, Horslips).
Appeared live on Arena with Seán Rocks, RTÉ Radio 1, on July 8th, 2015.
Emigration and Ireland: The Evolution of How We Say Goodbye – a brief article published June 28th, 2015 on TheJournal.ie.
Read at the Focal Literary Festival in Enniscorthy on June 26th, 2015. Also participated with Felicity Hayes McCoy and Andrew Hughes on the Non-Fiction Writing Panel (where Paul spoke about researching and structuring his documentary films) and moderated the Publishing Panel of Tracy Brennan (agent), Sue Conley (author, The Herald) and Gavin Hatch (Eason). Irish TV caught some of it on camera.
Addiction, Therapy and Fiction – a brief article on how writing has helped Paul through the darker days of life. Published June 25th, 2015 on Writing.ie.
Interview with Suzanne Jean Parker for Artbeat, Dublin City 103.2 fm, recorded May 13th, 2015. Full show available here.
I Wish MacGowan Hadn’t Written That Song
A young man is overcome with emotion the night before he is to emigrate when his father begins singing The Fairytale of New York. After leaving the pub, the young man recalls his childhood in the town, his past love, and on returning home he is surprised to find his heartbroken mother is still awake and waiting for him.
Published in Irish Independent‘s New Irish Writing on March 26th, 2011, edited by Ciaran Carty, and was shortlisted for the 2011 Hennessy First Fiction Award (Judges: Deirdre Purcell, Giles Foden).
Appeared in Issue 27 of Natural Bridge (US) in Spring 2012, and out of almost 500 submissions was one of Natural Bridge’s nominations to the Pushcart Prize: Best Writing Published in Literary Journals 2012.
What’s Eating Him?
The heat and lust of middle America is palpable when a drifter stops by a diner and starts chatting up the good looking woman serving behind the counter, unaware he’s being watched by the family of the woman who don’t take too kindly to strangers.
Prize-winning runner-up (final 20 from 2093 entries) for the Bristol Short Story Prize (Judges: Bertel Martin, Joe Berger, Maia Bristol, Helen Hart, Tania Hershman).
Published in 2011 in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 4 (UK).
An aging, widowed man does his best to cope with a mother suffering from dementia and news that his young Polish girlfriend is preparing to return home for good.
Prize-winning runner-up (final 8 from over 450 entries) for the 2011 William Trevor/Elizabeth Bowen International Short Story Prize (Judges: Vincent McDonnell, John MacKenna).
Published in The Stinging Fly Issue 21 Vol. 2/Spring 2012.
What Rose Did
A husband and wife are horrified to discover that their daughter may have been involved in the bullying of a girl at school.
Finalist (top 5% of over 1000 entries), as Messages, receiving an Honorable Mention in the April 2013 Family Matters Glimmertrain (US) contest (Co-editor: Linda Swanson-Davies).
A young boy and his dog are sent on an errand every Friday so that the boy’s mother can pay their perverse landlord in kind. But when the landlord takes revenge on the boy’s dog after a confrontation, the consequences for everyone are dire.
Shortlisted for the 2010 Seán O’Faoláin Prize (as Tarts) and published online (as Crosses) in 2011 at Necessary Fiction (US) (Editor: Steve Himmer, Emerson College, Boston, MA).
A young man, just coming to terms with news that his father has terminal cancer, is met at the hospital by his father’s brother who asks if he knows of a will.
Shortlisted (final 27) for the 2012 William Trevor/Elizabeth Bowen International Short Story Prize (Judges: Ita Daly, Afric McGlinchey and Vincent McDonnell).
The Love Drug
A young, depressed teacher, mourning the recent loss of his fiancée, recalls the night she died of an overdose.
Joint-winner of The Lonely Voice: Short Story Introductions competition (as The Way Home) hosted by the Irish Writers’ Centre, where Paul read this story on February 23rd, 2011 (Judge: Michael O’ Ruairc).