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.
RTÉ Ten (full review)
* Longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award
* Available online from Doire Press
* Launching at the Focal Literary Festival 2015
* Appearing at the Cork International Short Story Festival 2015
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.
author of John the Revelator
and Shall We Gather at the River
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.
author of The Fabulists,
The Water Star and 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.
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 Ph.D.,
Smurfit-Stone Corporation Professor of Irish Studies,
University of Missouri, St Louis, USA
Above images are for press use. Please click image to open and save/export, or right click to save the linked image file to your desktop. All author photographs © Helen Kirwan.
Click on PRESS RELEASE to download this Word document.
With Suzanne Jean Parker for Artbeat, Dublin City 103.2 fm, recorded May 13th, 2015. Full show available here.