The definitive collection of short stories by a master of the form and one of Ireland's most celebrated authors This indispensable volume contains the best of Frank O'Connor's short fiction. From "Guests of the Nation" to "The Mad Lomasneys" to "First Confession" to "My Oedipus Complex," these tales of Ireland have touched generations of readers the world over and placed O'Connor alongside W. B. Yeats and James Joyce as the greatest of Irish authors. Analyzing a Robert Browning poem, O'Connor once wrote: "Since a whole lifetime must be crowded into a few minutes, those minutes must be carefully chosen indeed and lit by an unearthly glow." Each of the sixty-seven stories gathered here achieves the same incredible feat of the imagination, laying bare entire lives and histories within the space of a few pages. Dublin schoolteacher Ned Keating waves good-bye to a charming girl and to any thoughts of returning to his village home in the lyrical and melancholy "Uprooted." A boy on an important mission is waylaid by a green-eyed temptress and seeks forgiveness in his mother's loving arms in "The Man of the House," a tale that draws on O'Connor's own difficult childhood. A series of awkward encounters and humorous misunderstandings perfectly encapsulates the complicated legacy of Irish immigration in "Ghosts," the bittersweet account of an American family's pilgrimage to the land of their forefathers. As a writer, critic, and teacher, O'Connor elevated the short story to astonishing new heights. This career-spanning anthology, epic in scope yet brimming with the small moments and intimate details that earned him a reputation as Ireland's Chekhov, is a testament to Frank O'Connor's magnificent storytelling and a true pleasure to read from first page to last.
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.