Review:Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor

William Trevor does not mess about.

I just finished his short story collection Cheating at Canasta. I found this in the bargain bin in Eason’s for €3! A shame, really when we see other forms of “Writing” getting the top three positions in the reader’s list.

But, it was great for me as this was the first time I had the chance to properly read Trevor’s writing since my U.C.D Arts days. It also was a welcome piece of calmness after Nathan Englander’s What we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank. Trevor simply writes exquisite pieces of life.

The collection opens with The Dressmaker’s child, which was featured in the Granta Book of Irish Short Stories. The Dressmaker’s child is a wonderfully horrific story of death and moving statues of Holy Mary. It take on a supernatural feel and ends in the way a short story should, in complete wonder. Unfortunately, Men of Ireland is a story that we are only all too familiar with, the story of clerical child abuse. Trevor plays with the reader right until the end and made me feel a bit guilty for disbelieving a homeless man and the story that had stuck with him all of his life. Bravado is a violent and bloodthirsty story and leaves an imprint on the characters and the readers. At Olivehill shows how time and history is irrelevant to some. A mother is left defending her heritage while her sons push modern life onto her home. The children is a story about a grieving father and his daughter and how she copes when her father begins to see another woman and bring her and her children into their house. The grieving daughter shows her anger by reading her deceased mother’s books, a form of rebellion and defiance to what she see her father doing.

The last story was quite blissful in a sick, demented way. Folie a deux is about a man who starts to see someone from the past in his everyday life. This man he sees is not real but the memories of what happened are. We are led skillfully back into the man character’s childhood and into a horrid story of how an innocent game went wrong. This never leaves the narrator’s thoughts and it wouldn’t leave mine, to be honest either!

The collection is a sad and melancholic one. Trevor is not the judge of moralistic lives. Many crimes happen in these stories yet I didn’t feel worn down or depressed by their darkness. Secrets are never left that way and each of the character’s secrets are revealed by the end of the story. They will sit with you.

I just love the way Trevor tells a seemingly simple narrative about simple characters that we can bond with and feel for immediately. There is no need for artistic or literary references here. He does not need to be clever. Instead, he observes life and people and transforms one particular movement in a character’s life, capturing it at the right moment of catharsis.

Great interview with Kevin Barry in New Yorker Magazine

Kevin Barry seems to be everywhere again, all of a sudden. A nice teacher lady on twitter sent me a poster, telling me that Mr. Barry was reading at the Westport Literary Festival. Unfortunately, I won’t be there, I can’t be everywhere!
Then, I ordered a copy of The Moth Magazine and it contained a really detailed interview with Kevin. It was the first time I read much about his personal life and past career so I loved it!
Then, the New Yorker magazine online handed me another free gift of Kevin Barry! Kevin speaks about how landscape and places leave a remnant of mood on him, this then influences him to write a story. Brilliant and this will make sense when you read his stories.
Check the link out here

I’ll be reviewing the Moth Magazine in my next post. Life is good. Anyone got any Kevin Barry interviews or any form of literary, reading or writing links, send them onto me, please! You can follow me on twitter @rozzlewis


Joseph O’ Connor on Morning AM talking about short stories

My friend told me that Joseph O’ Connor, author of new short story collection, Where have you been?, was on the Late Late looking slightly older or greyer than he should be!

I had a read a very good review of his new short story collection so I thought I would check out this interview. I am not overly keen on Ryan Tubridy so I watched Morning AM on TV3. In this video clip, Joseph talks about his love for short stories, music and life. He tells us about his new short stories and how they reflect a modern Ireland. Some of the stories are set in Celtic Tiger times and some in the recession. I am dying to read it more than ever now!

Where have you been has been added to my ever expanding reading list, which I will get to. I am nearly finished William Trevor’s Cheating at Canasta but then onto 3 other new collections! Joseph makes some interesting observations about why the Irish are just amazing story-tellers. He puts it own to the Irish and their love of the gossip/story in the pub or coffee shop. I think he is right.

I also disagree with my friend critique of him, Joseph looks really well and pretty funky! He doesn’t looked wrecked or old? Or maybe, I see things through a short story lens!

Cork International Short Story Festival 2012:Review Part 2:It’s Kevin Barry!

I was most excited about hearing Kevin Barry read again. I don’t want to sound like crazy lady from “Misery” film but I am officially the number one Kevin Barry fan. I get very annoyed when I see someone else having the cheek to read his books and even worse when they dare to comment on his writing.




Okay, I am exaggerating slightly but you get the idea. Kevin Barry rocks.

He was up first and he read a short story from Dark lies the island( you have to put this on your Christmas list-now!).  This story is set in Gort and about a man called Evan who ends up sleeping in a caravan owned by a strange man who likes kicking staircases and two sisters that like the strange man who kicks staircases. The sisters also have an array of skin haired-lice ridden children running about the place looking “crazed”. Things gets stranger and darker as the story goes on when Evan is locked in the caravan and ends up trying to survive on a tin of Campbells’ tomato soup. I won’t spoil the ending for you but it is very jumpy. Kevin reads with drama and devilment, which kinda reminds me of Eddie Lenihan. Remember him? No, Kevin doesn’t look like him at all but he sounds like him somewhat! I always wonder what the crowd will make of Kevin as his stories are not for the fainthearted and are quite naughty. They seemed to enjoy and laugh at the right moments and anyway, they all paid to see him so they should know what he is like.

Will Boast came on after Kevin, reading from his short story collection Power Ballads, which I haven’t read and probably won’t. Reasons being that I have a heap of books to read and I don’t really “get” American short stories. Yet. I might one day and maybe, then I will feast on his stories. Also, I found it hard to listen as really, Kevin should have read another and the moment was spoiled for me. They both read very differently and their voice and style are completely different and hard to put together. But, there seemed to be a  lot of Will Boast fans as well.

I briefly said hello to Kevin before he read and he tells me he is busy, busy writing! Great or I might have to lock you up in my house and buy you a typewriter and instruct you to get the sequel to City of Bohane finished quickly. I probably wouldn’t hurt his legs though. He has to be able to walk. But, only if he behaved himself.


Five Dials:free mag-stories from Kevin Barry, Nuala Ni Chonchuir and Lydia Davis et more!

Twitter is great for following new literary talent and any sort of bookish and writing news. I follow the brilliant Nuala Ni Chonchur, who not only writes and writes novels, poetry and short stories, teaches classes but she also runs a pretty cool blog. It is called I think she writes 3 other blogs too but let’s just focus on this one. Easy now!

Nuala’s twitter handle is @NualaNiC and she is a brilliant social conversationalist. She tweets you right back and if you make a comment on her blog, she replies! That’s manners for you!

Seriously, though her blog and tweet alerted me to the Five Dials magazine. I have heard of it before but didn’t quite realise how good it was. I must admit I only really went to delve into it properly when I saw these 4

But, this issue not only has writing from himself, it has short stories, fiction, poetry and strange images from Nuala Ni Chonchuir, Lydia David, Mike McCormack and D.W Wilson. Kevin’s story is well, very Kevin. A story called “The lovely Miss-what’s her face” is about a frustrated young man with psoriasis who likes to cook spaghetti bolgonese. Little does he know is that a man will never find a nice, young girl if he is going ot present her with a made from scratch spag bol. This woman is not really after the spag bol.

Nuala’s story Room 313  is really, really nice and sad and tender and the ending just hits the right spot. It’s about a chambermaid and the things she sees, the work she does/doesn’t do and her favourite room, Room 313. The chambermaid kicks some bottom at the end.

So, you can see why I am so excited because not only does five dials have these amazing short story writers and other bits of fiction and poetry, it also puts out  a call to all.

Zsuzsi Gartner is another pretty cool short story writer(why so many?), she is looking for people to “adopt” her short stories. She gives eleven of her story starters and you have to write to her, the old fashioned way and ask for adoption rights. She will send you a cert and you must finish the story. Simple.

I wish. Your story may be published in a future issue of Five Dials. I am going to have a go so why not you?

The link to the Five dials Issue 25 can be found here. and Nuala’s blog at here.

I am so good to you, you know.

The beautiful indifference by Sarah Hall

Sarah Hall is mostly known for her novels and The Beautiful Indifference is her first set of short stories.

I liked them mostly.

she opens the book with Butcher’s perfume, a story of a normal girl who gets wound up with a savage family. It is full of ancient superstition, horse whispering and general naughtiness. The family that the main character gets involved with are outwardly aggressive yet they show great moments of gentleness towards their family members and the main character when she eventually becomes aligned with their circle. They also loves animals, especially so that any human that hurts their animals pay for it. It is bound to end in violence and it does.

The next story Beautiful Indifference gives us a welcome break from the vile story before it. It is one of those stories that female authors often write about, a woman and their body, the feminine themes. An older lady with her younger, energetic lover. The theme of animals and beasts come through towards the end and the ending reminds me of a certain Irish writer, Kevin Barry. “The hills were around her. She took up her purse, opened the car door and stepped into them. It was like opening a book.” Hope I haven’t ruined it for you.

Bees, I didn’t like because it describes bees in far too much detail for me! The agency didn’t work for me either. I felt I had read this before or something.

She murdered mortal me is a perfect short story for me. It starts with a girlfriend having a big fight with her boyfriend while on holiday in South Africa and the landscape pulses alongside the telling of the girl;s story as she walks away through the jungle and its possible danger. An animal she meets on the way ties the ending in brilliantly and this is a story that you will have to go back and read again to make sure that is what the ending was about.

The Nightlong River is a beautifully told story, again capturing the landscape as the atmosphere to the sad characters within it. Vuotjarvi scared the hell of me, mostly because we never find out what happens really but it is the imaginary that scares most.

I really enjoyed these stories, all very much different characters and settings but with a full-on theme of landscape, animals and humans, we are left trying to breath for air.

Easy reading-4/5


Should I get it? Yes!


Winner of 2012 Sean O’ Faolain Short Story Competition is announced

The 2012 Sean O’Faolain Competition has been won by Sophie Hampton who is currently studying creative writing at Sheffield Hallam University (UK), Her story “White Socks & Weirdos” came first in a field of almost 1000 entries. There was a 50% increase in entries this year with UK entrants outnumbering US entrants for the first time. It’s also the first time the prize has gone to a British resident. Second place this year went to another Briton Thomas Watson of London for his story “Cafe at the V&A”. The runners-up are Dan Purdue of Britain, Maree Spratt of Queensland Australia, Ferdia Lennon of Dublin and David Mohan of Co. Dublin. All these six stories will be published in Southword next winter. Eighteen other writers have been commended for their entries.

You can read more and book workshops, talks and readings at the  or website, where the Short Story Festival 2012 will be held in Cork City.

I am heading down for the weekend, have booked my tickets for as many events as I can! Staying in the lovely Maldron Hotel, where I received a pretty good discount for accomodation when I mentioned the words “Short story festival”

Go on, you know you want to.

Holiday reading

I have spent the last two weeks in the beautifully cool city of Santander, in the region of Cantrabia, Spain.  I still had a couple of new short story collections to read at home and was debating to bring them with me but then I thought of using my kindle instead.

I downloaded “Solace” by Belinda McKeon and “Selected stories” by William Trevor and”Broken harbour” by Tana French.
Some explanation is needed, I think! Solace is a novel I have been meaning to read for a while. I hate reading a book just because it’s popular or won some type of award and Solace seemed that type of book. No, I would wait until I felt like reading it. That time came after the West Cork Lit festival in Bantry. Belinda Mc Keon was reading and staying at the whole event in the same hotel we were in. I saw her at breakfast every morning and noted she looked using iPads and twitter and was fascinatingly to look at. Sounds, like I was a bit obsessed, I wasn’t. She just happened to be an early riser like us! So, her little face stuck in my mind and when I downloaded the sample first chapter from Solace, I liked and wanted more. I read Solace in barely two days! Belinda really gets Ireland but especially rural Ireland. I had never thought of the pull of the father and the guilt of the son as they leave rural life, farming and land behind them.  She also seems to write very descriptively about modern Dublin life and having a baby! Solace is a must read that reminds me of what a good short story is about:nothing but everything. The novel opens with a prologue which makes you carry on reading until the end. I’m giving nothing away!
The second novel I read in ultra quick time was Broken Harbour by Tana French. She is an Irish(well, we have claimed her as Irish!) crime writer whose first two novels scared the bejesus out of me! This one is as compelling though it seemed to go on a bit too much towards the end and didn’t scare me as much. Maybe, I’m becoming less nervy in older life! I enjoyed it, a very light read that those type of women might bring to the beach. Tana French is no Belinda Mc Keon thought I’m sure both women are happy with their own genre and style. Worth a read but not as good as her first two, though disturbing observations on the Celtic Tiger and what went could have gone wrong.
I am only half way through William Trevor’s Selected Stories. I’ve noticed that be seems to be a very formal, gentlemanly type of writer and his stories could be easily lengthened out into a novella. I’m enjoying him though and learning from him as the master of the short story. He was born in 1928 but he can do it all-old style, modern, funny, sexy…Jealous?
The holidays have been great for not only reading but for writing. Since, my time in Bantry, I have written 9 individual short stories, with two of them becoming the longest I have ever written. Now, the next step is to draft, redraft and then show to the writers group. We have a reading coming up at Penfest Carlow 2012 and hoping to get one into a good state for that!


The Long story, short

Jennifer Mathews from the Cork Short Story festival likes writing stories! She really likes writing longer than the average short story and had noticed that short stories were getting…em..shorter!

It launches in October 2012 and will be exclusively online. Looking forward to it already.

She has set up a webpage and journal for all those people who like to take their time with telling a story. If you want to submit;

Short Story Guidelines

1. Stories should generally be between 4000 and 9000 words, although a few hundred words less or more are welcome. A maximum of two stories at a time will be considered. Please do not re-submit work previously declined, or work that has been published elsewhere.

2. The Long Story, Short is a literary journal for fiction only. Stories for children are not in the scope of this journal. Translations are accepted. Genre fiction will only be considered should it have very strong literary merit.

3. At this time we regret that we cannot pay contributorsDonations, no matter how small, are welcome to help fund web-hosting of The Long Story, Short so we can continue to publish work which is longer than what is found in many conventional publications.

4. The editor will endeavor to respond to writers within 8 weeks from the date they submit their work. Unfortunately, we cannot make comments on individual submissions.Submissions are welcome at any time. A reading period may be introduced in future.

5. The Long Story, Short will publish one story per month only. If your submission is unsuccessful, please do try again in future. Remember, readers make the best writers.

6. Stories must be sent in a document attached to an email (NOT pasted into the body of an email). No PDFs please. Send to .

Find more here at


Éilís Ni Dhuibhne:The shelter of neighbours short stories

The shelter of neighbours:short stories by Éilís Dhuibhne 

Yes, I am aware that Éilís Ni Dhuibhne released her new short story collection a couple of months ago while all the other people had read, reviewed and moved on. How do those people do it that quickly? I take my time with a short story and read bits of pieces of other short story writers. I think it allows me to contrast the styles and content. While, I was reading Shelter of Neighbours, I was also reading Jamie O’ Connell and Sarah Hall. It’s a hard life!

In shelter of neighbours, Éilís focusses on the writer as a tool to almost tease the existence of a writer and their life. Jamie O’Connell does this frequently in his Some kind of beauty. Éilís writes in an easy style, her characters are mostly odd balls, fristrated with life and the ordinary. My favourite ones are the ones that take on a macabre sort of quality. A literary lunch and Trespasses  are gems, in this sense. In The moon shines clear, the horseman is here, the main character goes though a sad return to the past and you will by reading furiously to see what happens in the end!  I really liked the way she set different short stories in a fictional estate in Dublin, the characters intertwine in a minor way throughout some of the stories, which is nice. It makes the short story genre move back and forth into the novel genre. Bikes I have lost is about 50 pages, almost a novella. The story needed this though I don’t quite understand the ending!

Many of the stories speak of an older Ireland, with one story “The Blind” forecasting the present day of money, children and priests in a subtle way.

Overal, the stories are so comforting, nothing much happens or so we think until the ending builds right up and we look back and piece together the moments she had created.

You can buy her book on kindle or in paperback here.