I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Into the West

Into the West

Susan McKeever
Galway Stories: 2020, Alan McMonagle & Lisa Frank (eds), Doire Press, 288 pp, €15, ISBN: 978-1907682735 In his introduction, joint editor and novelist Alan McMonagle describes this rich, rounded collection as “an anthology of and about place”. It is in fact much more than an anthology: it evokes the unique spirit, atmosphere and salty tang of the eponymous western city and county perched on the windswept edge of the Atlantic. The twenty short stories travel between neighbourhoods of Galway city and county, from the city centre to Salthill, from Killary to Barna, inland to Ballinasloe and offshore to Inisbofin, one of the few places in Ireland where you can still hear the rasping kerrx-kerrx call of the endangered corncrake. It is published by Inverin-based Doire Press to celebrate Galway’s year as European Capital of Culture, with American-born publisher Lisa Frank as the other co-editor. All writers have some connection to Galway: they are either from there or have lived or worked there for a spell. There is an informative piece by historian Tom Kenny leading into each neighbourhood story (or clutch of stories), complete with black and white photographs by Róisín Flaherty. For example, readers will learn that Ballinasloe in east Galway was once host to the biggest cattle mart in the British Isles (and is now home to the biggest horse fair in Ireland). The Ballinasloe story, Nuala O’Connor’s Futuretense®, tells of Maria, who works in Naas copywriting hammy perfume descriptions for a distasteful boss … who has skin the same “mottled, churlish pink as a cow’s udder”. I revelled in the corny perfume descriptions with names like K9®, “with its Irish Setter-shaped flasque … rugged, faithful, true”. She’s summoned home to Ballinasloe by her mother to bury the family dog; her father has taken to the bed. Speaking on RTÉ’s Arena recently, Patrick McCabe affirmed his strong connection to Galway, saying the place evoked two things for him: “the beat of a bodhrán and the horizon”. Indeed his contribution, “The Galway Spike”, a metaphysical journey of one Bartle Conneely, is written in beat poetry style, bringing to mind the mesmeric beat of this traditional drum, such a prevalent sound in pub seisiúns throughout the county. In “Malachi Dreams in a Cupboard”, June Caldwell tells the story of a man in a bit of trioblóid (Irish is peppered throughout the Gaeltacht-based tale) who regularly retreats to a cupboard for solace. He’s unemployed, he can’t get his new…

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