Gerard Donovan speaks at the launch of Granmother, Girl, Wolf and Other Stories “When a writer is born into a family, that family is finished”: I don’t know the context in which Czeslaw Milosz wrote those words, but I want to believe that he was referring to the uncanny ability of the writer to delve into the illusions of wholeness we create through words such as “family” and “society” and “nation” and to expose the long, dark spaces that crowd hidden inside them. I want to believe that the writer’s vocation is to record, to be an unrelenting observer of the human act of living, and in a crafted manner to measure those spaces, expose them, celebrate them. The short story form presents the ideal ground for that single transformation that occurs-what we call a metaphor-and not two or three, but one thing transformed. A novel attempts many metaphors, a short story, one: an uncle may not be the man we think he is; a wife ultimately retains the memory of another’s kiss. Once a writer transforms the family into those disparate moments of sense–the stories that line up behind a smell, a texture–the family in that same moment is finished. In its place the writer, using the lie of fiction ( fictio : to shape), assembles truth from those hidden spaces. As Bill Buford notes, “Literature is always best when it is celebrating its subjects darkly.and because it is often by describing the thing lost–a family, a moment of happiness, a child, a father–that we understand the full weight of what we had.” The best stories create an art that is intimate and universal at the same time. A story of one family seeking asylum becomes the story of all who seek better lives, even in their own country and without leaving port. Craft alone won’t do it. Sooner or later you have to leave the dialogue and plot and setting behind and trust yourself to tell a story of the human heart, which means eventually exposing your own. And yet craft can produce wonders. Take the first sentences from Katie Henderson’s winning story, Grandmother, Girl, Wolf : “At the beginning, there is an old woman. Babka. I watch her peel the cloth from a lump of clay.” Note that the writer employs “at” the beginning” and not “in.” Another writer might have chosen ‘in,” but the “at” takes time from the beginning and places it alongside the action, because beginnings aren’t necessarily uniform events, and the dislocation that informs much of her story lives in the first three words. Then comes her choice of the present tense, since a beginning can only have the present. A past has not yet been created: you get to the past through the present. And after that of course you have the problem of the future, which will have the toughest time establishing itself. All this in the first one and a half lines. What craft promises is, literally, a finish: the writer polishes the story into a form that pleases and has proportion. And perhaps that might provide us with another reading of Milosz’s observation, that a family is “finished” in the sense that it is presented. It was my pleasure to serve as one of the three judges for the Fish Short Story Prize. For those who did not win a prize, please remember that many of the best artists never won a prize at any point in their lives, and for a story to have reached the anthology stage of the competition alone means that it has survived much critical scrutiny. Shortly the authors will read from their work; in the meantime I am happy to declare the anthology launched”. – This speech was given by Gerard Donovan for the launch of the 06 Anthology at the West Cork Literary Festival on 3 July 2006. From the Foreword by Clem Cairns, Founder of Fish Publishing Short stories give us a glimpse of the concerns of people and society generally, at a point in time, almost like a poll coming up to an election, that fails to ask a specific question. In one year there might be a preponderance of stories with suicide as a theme. Another year it might be the failure of relationships or fear of loneliness and old age. You get the insight from each individual story, along with the general one. The one Page Story gives us a glimpse of something else. It is, quite frankly, too short to take the pulse of the zeitgeist. They are tiny. 250 words is not enough to explore a theme or develop a character. They often resemble a needle bursting a balloon. I think that they show the relative health of the contrariness, the anarchy, the subconscious subversion that is out there working away at undermining every precept, pretension and pillar we erect to hold the fortress of our cultural and moral cohesion. And they can be great fun. For the first time there is poetry in a Fish Anthology. Poetry is dodgy stuff. It can be difficult to read, impenetrable, labyrinthine, confusing, enlightening, intoxicating and brilliant and bad. What could be worse than a poem that just doesn’t work, or more wonderful that one that simply does? They rattle you at a different vibration than most Short or One Page stories, as though they are made from the same raw material as dreams and nightmares. We put them all at the centre of the anthology where they can hum and radiate. There is, as there always is, a wide geographic spread. The winner of the Short Story Prize, Katie Henderson, is a New Zealander, and the first from that country to win the prize. Clorinda Smith from Suffolk won the One Page Prize, and the winner of the Poetry Prize, Richard Rudd, is from Devon. Of the five poets, three are from Ireland. For the rest of the anthology, the writters come mostly from the Americas and Europe, and a single Australian. The aim of this anthology is to promote excellence in short fiction, and to help writers along the path to fulfilling their ambition. Sean Lusk appears ina Fish Anthology for the second time and is thereby prevented by the rules from entering the Fish Short Story Prize again. One of the most talented and versatile writers we have had the honour to publish, we wish him every success. Last year his story A Burning and a Smudging was short listed to the last three, but he had to withdraw it for personal reasons, missing out on the chance of winning the overall prize and €10,000. I hope to see it in print some day. Congratulations to all the writers in this anthology, and may you all prosper. – Clem Cairns, Durrus, 2006.
Grandmother, Girl, Wolf – Katie Henderson Beach – Amy Sackville Counterparts – Courtney Zoffness Out of Order- Clorinda Smith Christmas – Owen Egerton The End – May Williamson The Poisoned Well – Alexandra Fox Snowing in Berlin – Sarah MacLeod Cries from the Heart – Margaret Ahmed Egyptian Embalmers Last Wish – Jane Rusbridge One Love – Chris Barnham Blow In – Maire Winters Thank You – Martin H. Bott Thump Sandwich – Tessa Sheriden Trees – Jason Brown The Siren Lovers – Richard Rudd Three Nuns in a Pickup – Terry McDonagh We Stared at Stars – Mary O’Gorman After Vermeer – Sue Wood Retired – Breda Sullivan Simon’s Skin – Vanessa Gebbie Black Blood – Robert Dailey Sudden Sceptic – Alison Grove Magic Wish – Christine Donovan You Talk – Eitan Muller Someone to Watch Over You – Sean Lusk Afternoon Friday – Sarah Wright The Glass Bitch Defines an Atomic Age – D.K. McCutchen The Chorus – Erin Soros Salt and Pepper – Jacqueline Winn The Butcher’s Music – Jacob M. Appel
The practitioners of the art of brevity and super-brevity whose work is in this book have mastered the skills and distilled and double-distilled their work like the finest whiskey.More
€12 (incl. p&p) Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty experience as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination. An astute, empathetic, sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life. They dance themselves onto the pages, and waltz around your mind long after […]More
How do we transform personal experience of pain into literature? How do we create and then chisel away at those images of others, of loss, of suffering, of unspeakable helplessness so that they become works of art that aim for a shared humanity? The pieces selected here seem to prompt all these questions and the best of them offer some great answers.
– Carmen Bugan.
What a high standard all round – of craft, imagination and originality: and what a wide range of feeling and vision.
I was struck by how funny many of the stories are, several of them joyously so – they are madcap and eccentric and great fun. Others – despite restrained and elegant prose – managed to be devastating. All of them are the work of writers with talent.
The writing comes first, the bottom line comes last. And sandwiched between is an eye for the innovative, the inventive and the extraordinary.More
A new collection from around the globe: innovative, exciting, invigorating work from the writers and poets who will be making waves for some time to come. David Mitchell, Michael Collins, David Shields and Billy Collins selected the stories, flash fiction, memoirs and poems in this anthology.More
Reading the one page stories I was a little dazzled, and disappointed that I couldn’t give the prize to everybody. It’s such a tight format, every word must count, every punctuation mark. ‘The Long Wet Grass’ is a masterly bit of story telling … I still can’t get it out of my mind.
– Chris Stewart
The perfectly achieved story transcends the limitations of space with profundity and insight. What I look for in fiction, of whatever length, is authenticity and intensity of feeling. I demand to be moved, to be transported, to be introduced into other lives. The stories I have selected for this anthology have managed this. – Ronan Bennett, Short Story Judge.More
I sing those who are published here – they have done a very fine job. It is difficult to create from dust, which is what writers do. It is an honour to have read your work. – Colum McCannMore
The entries into this year’s Fish Short Story Prize were universally strong. From these the judges have selected winners, we believe, of exceptional virtue. – Carlo GeblerMore
I was amazed and delighted at the range and quality of these stories. Every one of them was interesting, well-written, beautifully crafted and, as a short-story must, every one of them focused my attention on that very curtailed tableau which a short-story necessarily sets before us. – Michael CollinsMore
These stories voice all that is vibrant about the form. – Gerard Donovan. Very short stories pack a poetic punch. Each of these holds its own surprise, or two. Dive into these seemingly small worlds. You’ll come up anew. – Angela Jane FountasMore
Each of the pieces here has been chosen for its excellence. They are a delightfully varied assortment. More than usual for an anthology, this is a compendium of all the different ways that fiction can succeed. I invite you to turn to ‘All the King’s Horses’. The past is here. Begin.
– Michel Faber
Literary anthologies, especially of new work, act as a kind of indicator to a society’s concerns. This Short Story collection, such a sharp and useful enterprise, goes beyond that. Its internationality demonstrates how our concerns are held in common across the globe. – Frank DelaneyMore
From the daily routine of a career in ‘Spoonface’, to the powerful, recurring image of a freezer in ‘Shadow Lives’. It was the remarkable focus on the ordinary that made these Fish short stories such a pleasure to read. – Hugo HamiltonMore
In a world where twenty screens of bullshit seem to be revolving without respite … there is nothing that can surpass the ‘explosion of art’ and its obstinate insistence on making sense of things. These dedicated scribes, as though some secret society, heroically, humbly, are espousing a noble cause.
– Pat McCabe
It’s supposed to be a short form, the good story, but it has about it a largeness I love. There is something to admire in all these tales, these strange, insistent invention. They take place in a rich and satisfying mixture of places, countries of the mind and heart. – Christopher HopeMore
There are fine stories in this new anthology, some small and intimate, some reaching out through the personal for a wider, more universal perspective, wishing to tell a story – grand, simple, complex or everyday, wishing to engage you the reader. – Kate O’RiodanMore
I feel like issuing a health warning with this Fish Anthology these stories may seriously damage your outlook – Here the writers view the world in their unique way, and have the imagination, talent, and the courage to refine it into that most surprising of all art forms the short story. – Clem Cairns.More
Every story in this book makes its own original way in the world. knowing which are the telling moments, and showing them to us. And as the narrator of the winning story casually remarks, ‘Sometimes its the small things that amaze me’ – Molly McCloskeyMore
The stories here possess the difference, the quirkiness and the spark. They follow their own road and their own ideas their own way. It is a valuable quality which makes this collection a varied one. Read it, I hope you say to yourself like I did on many occasions, ‘That’s deadly. How did they think of that?’ – Eamonn SweeneyMore
Really good short stories like these, don’t read like they were written. They read like they simply grew on the page. – Joseph O’ConnorMore
The writers in this collection can write short stories . . . their quality is the only thing they have in common. – Roddy DoyleMore
This is the first volume of short stories from Ireland’s newest publishing house. We are proud that fish has enabled 15 budding new writers be published in this anthology, and I look forward to seeing many of them in print again.More
12 Miles Out was selected by David Mitchell as the winner of the Fish Unpublished Novel Award.
A love story, thriller and historical novel; funny and sad, uplifting and enlightening.
You only know who you can’t trust. You can’t trust the law, because there’s none in New Ireland. You can’t trust the Church, because they think they’re the law. And you can’t trust the State, because they think they’re the Church And most of all, you can’t trust your friends, because you can’t remember who they were anymore.More
A memoir of urban life, chronicled through its central character, Mackey. From momentary reflections to stories about his break with childhood and adolescence, the early introduction to the Big World, the discovery of romance and then love, the powerlessness of ordinary people, the weaknesses that end in disappointment and the strengths that help them seek redemption and belonging.More
Ian Wild’s stories mix Monty Python with Hammer Horror, and the Beatles with Shakespeare, but his anarchic style and sense of humour remain very much his own in this collection of tall tales from another planet. Where else would you find vengeful organs, the inside story of Eleanor Rigby, mobile moustaches, and Vikings looting a Cork City branch of Abracababra?More