Frank O'Connor is regarded as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, and a master of the short story form. In this definitive compilation of his stories, including "Guests of the Nation," O'Connor explores universal themes of love, loss, and faith through the particulars of the Irish experience, both in Ireland and abroad.
O'Connor is a master of the short story, and I admire his ability to create incredibly detailed pictures with comparatively few words. His Ireland, though, is an incredibly bleak place, where the biggest sin is planning for the future, and the only thing worse than being drunk is not being drunk.
He's particularly adept at showing the world through the eyes of children, particularly boys, and at showing the way children try to explain their worlds to themselves in the absence of information from their parents, which is both wonderful and heartbreaking. On the other hand, many of his male characters are locked in frankly - and frankly creepy - oedipal relationships with their mothers, which I found incredibly uncomfortable - and possibly uncomfortably familiar. Many of the stories are very funny, but funny in a dark, bleak, desperate kind of way. I can't say I enjoyed the work, exactly, but it was definitely worth reading.